Turkey to intensify talks with Russia over Aleppo ceasefire
ANKARA - Turkey will intensify talks with Russia for a ceasefire to end the "humanitarian tragedy" in Aleppo, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Tuesday, as Ankara accused Syria of violating international law.
The announcement came as the UN accused forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of executing dozens of civilians in the former rebel stronghold of Aleppo.
"Today, tomorrow, everyday, we will intensify our talks with Russia and other countries so we can find a solution to this humanitarian tragedy," Cavusoglu said at a press conference with his Czech counterpart in Ankara.
"Our efforts continue in particular for civilians to be able to leave and for a ceasefire."
Asked about possible Aleppo talks with Moscow on Wednesday, Cavusoglu said Turkish officials often met with their Russian counterparts, insisting it was "not a special meeting".
Shortly after, the Turkish foreign ministry issued a statement in which it said it was "horrified and outraged by the massacre of civilians" in eastern Aleppo by the Syrian regime and its supporters.
It added civilians wanting to leave the city were not given the chance to as it called for a halt to the bombings so people could leave safely.
Russia has been engaged in an air campaign over Syria since September 2015 in support of Assad, with its actions helping change the fortunes of the regime, which now appears on the cusp of recapturing all of Aleppo.
Forces loyal to Assad have said the offensive in Syria's second city is in its "final phase" after they seized more than 90 percent of the eastern districts which had been held by the rebels since 2012.
- Regime violating 'international law' -
The Turkish foreign ministry also accused the regime and its supporters -- without naming individual countries -- of violating "international humanitarian law".
The ministry expressed concern over two neighbourhoods where tens of thousands of civilians were stuck and where opposition fighters were presently facing a similar fate to other parts of the city.
"The regime and its supporters' responsibility is obvious," it said.
Last week, six western powers said hospitals and schools appeared to have been targeted in the Aleppo bombardments.
Cavusoglu also denounced the deliberate targeting of hospitals.
"We have seen Aleppo left alone (by the international community) and despite promising a ceasefire, we see Aleppo then continues to be cruelly bombed... Even if everyone is quiet, Turkey will not be quiet," he said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a press conference in Belgrade on Tuesday that Moscow had "very intense and regular" contacts with Ankara.
"I can tell you that our contacts with the Turkish side are effective and focused on coordinating our steps on Syria," he said, quoted by Ria Novosti state news agency.
Ankara has repeatedly called for Assad's departure, accusing Damascus of massacres in Aleppo and elsewhere but its criticism of actions by Moscow, a close ally of the Syrian leader, has been noticeably muted following a recent rapprochement between the two countries.