Turkey, Russia Slam US Backing for IS

Turkey’s president says the US is supporting IS while Russia says the new Washington defense policy is empowering terrorists
Turkey, Russia Slam US Backing for ISTurkey, Russia Slam US Backing for IS
The US decision to ease restrictions on arming Syrian militants paves the way for deliveries of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles to the militants

Turkey and Russia have separately accused the US of backing terrorist groups in Syria, on the same day they agreed to push for talks in Kazakhstan next month over the conflict.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday that he had evidence that the US-led coalition forces give support to the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group and Kurdish groups, namely the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Democratic Union Party (PYD).

“They were accusing us of supporting Daesh,” he told a press conference in Ankara, using the Arabic abbreviation for IS, Aljazeera reported.

“Now they give support to terrorist groups, including Daesh, YPG, PYD. It is very clear. We have confirmed evidence, with pictures, photos and videos,” he said, without elaborating further about the evidence.

The US State Department dismissed Erdogan’s claims as “ludicrous”. Spokesman Mark Toner said there was no basis for such an accusation.

Turkey’s president had made similar claims in November during a visit to Pakistan, where he alleged that “the West stands by Daesh”, adding that IS was using western weapons.

Erdogan’s comments come amid Turkey’s major incursion inside Syria to combat IS and Kurdish militia forces. Its military has met fierce resistance on its quest to capture the Syrian town of Al-Bab, located some 30 kilometers south of the Turkish border, from IS militants.

At least 37 Turkish soldiers have died since Ankara launched its offensive into Syria in August. However, casualty figures have risen sharply recently with the Turkish Armed Forces reportedly suffering 16 causalities on December 21 in the fight for Al-Bab.

 Russia Lashes Out at US

Separately, Russia said on Tuesday that a US decision to ease restrictions on arming Syrian militants paves the way for deliveries of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles—a move it said would directly threaten Russian forces in the country.

Maria Zakharova, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson, said the policy change-set out in the annual defense policy bill and signed into law by US President Barack Obama on December 23-would lead to weapons ending up “in the hands of militants with whom the sham ‘moderate’ opposition have long acted jointly”.

“Such a decision is a direct threat to the Russian air force, to other Russian military personnel, and to our embassy in Syria, which has come under fire more than once. We, therefore, view the step as a hostile one,” Zakharova said in a statement.

Reporting from Moscow, Al Jazeera’s Natasha Ghoneim said Russia was “lashing out” at the US in the final days of Obama’s administration.

“The [Russian] foreign ministry is saying that the Obama administration is trying to complicate the global situation ahead of Donald Trump, the president-elect, taking office,” she said.

 Ceasefire Plan

Turkey and Russia have reached an agreement on a ceasefire plan comprising the whole of Syria, and the two countries will work to ensure that it comes into effect at midnight Wednesday night, Turkey’s state-run news agency reported.

The Anadolu Agency, quoting unnamed sources, said the plan would be presented to all sides of the Syria conflict and aims for a ceasefire that would come into force “in all regions” where fighting between pro-government forces and militants is taking place.

Terrorist organizations would be kept out of the scope of the ceasefire agreement, the agency said, without naming the terrorist groups.

It said a peace process in Kazakhstan’s capital of Astana would go ahead under Russia and Turkey’s leadership if the ceasefire holds.

Anadolu said the two countries would act as “guarantors” of the peace process.

There was no immediate confirmation from Turkey’s Foreign Ministry.

 Latest Syrian Army Operations

Syrian Armed Forces continued counter-terrorism operations across the country on Tuesday, thwarting two attacks by IS terrorists in Aleppo and Sweida provinces.

A military source told SANA that an army unit thwarted an attack by terrorists from IS coming from Rasem al-Kama toward Nasralla Village near the Air Force College in Aleppo countryside.

The source said the clashes resulted in destroying three SUVs and killing a number of terrorists.

A military source said an army unit clashed with an IS terrorist group that infiltrated from the road linking the villages of Saad and al-Qaser toward Tal Banat Baer area in northeastern Sweida, with the unit foiling the attack.

According to SANA, several other operations against IS targets has been carried out during the past 24 hours in Homs, Deir Ezzor and al-Qaser Village

An operation was carried out against al-Nusra Front terrorists in Daraa al-Balad area in Daraa Province, with the operations targeting terrorists’ fortifications and gatherings at Tariq al-Sad.

 Demining East Aleppo

Russian sappers have cleared 966 hectares in eastern Aleppo from mines since the start of the humanitarian demining operation, the Russian Center for Reconciliation of Opposing Sides in Syria said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Explosive devices have been removed from nearly 350 kilometers of roads and 2,149 buildings (111 of them socially important), including 44 schools, 38 mosques, 10 hospitals, two kindergartens, three pumping stations, two power plants, one water purification plant and one bread-baking plant,” the statement reads, TASS news agency reported.

In total, Russian servicemen defused about 14,700 explosive devices, including 6,700 homemade bombs.

The Russian sappers arrived at Hmeymim airbase in Syria on December 3 to start the large-scale demining effort two days later.


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