Syrian government forces made significant strides this Sunday 16 in the northwestern province of Aleppo, taking most of the region under rebel control, just a day before a new round of discussions between Turkey and Russia over the escalating conflict in the region.
Recent advances by the Syrian government in the region have shaken the fragile cooperation between Ankara and Moscow, which support different sides of the conflict, but have collaborated in the search for a political solution to the war that has lasted almost nine years.
Turkey, which supports rebels trying to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad, has been irritated since Syrian attacks on the Idlib region killed thirteen Turkish soldiers in two weeks. He called on Russia to stop the attacks, warning that it would use military force to force Syrian forces to back down unless they withdraw by the end of the month.
On Sunday, Russian warplanes carried out strong air strikes in the province of Aleppo, bombing cities like Anadan, later seized by Syrian forces aided by Iran-backed militias, activists said.
Rebels' military sources said opposition soldiers withdrew from the area, including Anadan and the city of Haritan.
"On the first day, they took over an area where for eight years they were unable to take a single village," said Rami Abdulrahman, director of the UK-based Human Rights Observatory in Syria.
"It is a very rapid advance for the (Syrian) regime in the region," said Abdulrahman. "The factions withdrew from most of the area," he added. The Observatory said Syrian forces had taken thirteen cities and towns in the region.
Started in March 2011 with the repression of peaceful demonstrations, the war in Syria killed more than 380,000 people. Supported by Russia, Iran and also by Lebanese Hezbollah, the Damascus government has won successive victories and already controls more than 70% of Syria.
‘Idlib attacks need to stop’
Turkey's foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, said on Sunday that he told his Russian correspondent that the attacks in the Idlib region of northwest Syria need to stop immediately and that a lasting ceasefire is needed.
"We told (to Russia on Saturday) that the aggression in Idlib needs to stop and that a lasting ceasefire must be reached now," Cavusoglu told reporters in Germany after the Munich Security Conference.
Turkish and Russian officials will discuss the matter in Moscow on Monday, he added.
(With Reuters and AFP)