BEIRUT — The Latest on developments in the Syrian civil war (all times local):
Turkish officials say President Recep Tayyip Erdogan held a telephone conversation with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in which the two leaders discussed ways to “intensify” efforts to end clashes in Syria and deliver humanitarian aid.
Officials in Erdogan’s office said the two leaders on Wednesday also discussed joint energy projects, including the construction of Turkey’s first nuclear power plant.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government regulations.
Putin is scheduled to arrive in Turkey next week to attend an energy meeting
Syria’s military command says it will scale back its bombardment of Aleppo to allow civilians to evacuate the contested city’s eastern, rebel-held neighborhoods.
In a statement carried on the state news agency Wednesday, the military command said civilians wishing to leave eastern Aleppo could move to the city’s government-held western side.
Pro-government forces and Russian jets have subjected eastern Aleppo to fierce land and air bombardment since the military dissolved a cease-fire two weeks ago, targeting hospitals and residential and civilian infrastructure along with militant positions.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group says more than 300 civilians have died in air raids and shelling on the city’s eastern quarters.
The U.N. says 275,000 people are trapped inside the government’s siege of the city’s east
A top official with Syria’s main opposition says violence in northern Aleppo is reaching “genocidal proportions,” but that rebel-held parts of the city are not about to fall to government-led forces.
Bassma Kodmani of the High Negotiations Committee, a key player in U.N.-mediated peace talks that stalled in April, says “a large city like this cannot fall easily,” citing Homs to the south, which government forces took months to recapture.
In a phone interview Wednesday, Kodmani said: “We are not talking about a fall of Aleppo within days or even two to three weeks,” just “a level of violence against citizens that is reaching genocidal proportions.”
She lashed out at Russia, a key backer of President Bashar Assad, for allegedly “mocking” the United Nations and its efforts to reach peace
France’s foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault will be heading to Moscow on Thursday and Washington on Friday in an effort to restart talks on a cease-fire in Syria.
The French foreign ministry says in a written statement Ayrault’s trip aims to push for the adoption of a U.N. resolution that would “pave the way for a cease-fire in Aleppo and access to humanitarian aid for the population”.
The U.N. Security Council began negotiations Monday on a draft resolution proposed by France and Spain seeking an immediate truce in Aleppo and calling for an end to all military flights over the Syrian city, where over a quarter million people in rebel-held areas are besieged by Syrian forces.
Russia immediately rejected any grounding of aircraft and questioned whether a resolution at this time would actually produce any results.
Washington suspended diplomatic contacts with Moscow over ending the war on Monday.
Germany is hosting a meeting of senior foreign ministry officials from a group of Western nations in hopes of exploring ways out of the diplomatic impasse surrounding Syria’s civil war.
Ministry political directors from the United States, France, Britain, Italy and the European Union’s diplomatic service are due at the Foreign Ministry in Berlin late Wednesday.
German Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer says the aim is to explore options to improve humanitarian access and get a political process moving again, and to discuss “under what conditions and how we want to continue or resume talks with Russia.”
Schaefer tells reporters in Berlin that the talks are meant as a “brainstorming” session and indicated that no specific results should be expected.
The United States on Monday suspended direct contacts with Russia on halting the war in Syria.
A group that tracks Syria’s civil war says Syrian and Russian airstrikes are responsible for most of over 450 civilian fatalities it has documented in the contested province of Aleppo in the past weeks.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the death toll is from Sept. 19, when Syrian government forces declared that a U.S.-Russia-brokered cease-fire for the country was over.
The Observatory says in a report released on Wednesday that airstrikes since then have killed 302 civilians in the eastern, rebel-held side of the provincial capital, also called Aleppo. It says 112 civilians died in rebel-held areas in the Aleppo countryside.
Meanwhile, the Observatory says 14 civilians in the eastern part of the city of Aleppo died in shelling by forces loyal to the government. Rebel shelling on Aleppo’s government-controlled areas has killed 27 civilians.
A Syria monitoring group and a Kurdish news agency say overnight airstrikes, suspected to be Turkish, have hit a village in northern Syria, killing at least 18 civilians.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says that at least 19 were killed, including three children, in the attack on the majority Kurdish village of Thulthana, in northern Aleppo province.
The village is in an area controlled by the Islamic State militants.
The Hawar news agency in the semi-autonomous Kurdish areas in Syria said 18 were killed. It says the attack happened around midnight Tuesday.
There was no immediate comment from Ankara.
Turkish military launched an offensive inside Syria in August, backing Syrian rebels, to push Islamic State militants from its borders and curb advances of Syrian Kurdish rebels, which it sees as an extension of its own outlawed Kurdish rebels.
The U.N. has released satellite images showing most recent destruction of Syria’s embattled northern city of Aleppo. Officials with the U.N.’s satellite imagery program say new pictures from rebel-held parts of Aleppo show “an awful lot of new damage” — presumably by airstrikes.
Lars Bromley of UNOSAT says the commercial images from Digital Globe, obtained by the U.N. agency through an arrangement with the U.S. State Department, show mostly “formerly blasted and blown-up areas” during Syria’s 5-1/2-year war “experiencing a great deal of additional damage.”
He told reporters on Wednesday in Geneva: “To a certain extent you’re looking at rubble being pushed around.”
The images mostly show before-and-after pictures from mid to late September showing destruction of buildings, including homes, after the breakdown of a short-lived U.S. and Russia-brokered cease-fire.
One image, dated Saturday, shows the damage to a school or athletic facility in Aleppo’s Owaija district.
Turkish military officials say two Syrian opposition fighters and a Turkish soldier were killed in clashes with Islamic State militants in northern Syria. At least 18 IS fighters were also killed.
The officials said on Wednesday that the two rebels were killed in battles southwest of the town of al-Rai, during which the Turkish backed-opposition forces took control of four residential areas: Turkmen Bari, Kuaybah, Boztepe and Hardanah.
Separately, a Turkish soldier was killed and three others were slightly wounded in fighting in the opposition-held area of Ziyara, which a group of IS militants tried to infiltrate.
The Turkish military officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
Turkey sent troops and tanks into Syria in August to help Syrian rebels re-take IS strongholds near the border.
This story has been corrected to show that a meeting of foreign ministry officials is due to take place in Berlin late Wednesday, not Thursday.