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MIDEAST > Syria cease-fire still in limbo amid violence

ANKARA / DAMASCUS

The fragile Syrian cease-fire process is strengthened by calls from international community including Ankara as violence across the country persists

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Russia’s destroyer-class warship Smetlivy, which patrolled waters off the coast of Syria in April and May, passes through the Dardanelles. AA photo

Russia’s destroyer-class warship Smetlivy, which patrolled waters off the coast of Syria in April and May, passes through the Dardanelles. AA photo

Turkey called for all sides involved in the Syrian conflict to observe a cease-fire during the Eid al-Adha next week. Both Syrian forces and rebels should end hostilities “at least” through the four-day Eid al-Adha holiday that begins Oct. 26, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu told reporters Oct. 19.

“It is especially important for the Syrian regime, which has dropped bombs on its people with planes and helicopters, to halt these attacks immediately and without preconditions. We do hope that the Syrian regime will listen to the call of the international community and suspend attacks during Eid al-Adha,” Davutoğlu said.

During a visit to Istanbul by the Joint U.N. and Arab League Special Envoy on Syria Lakhdar Brahimi, Secretary General of the Arab League Nabil al-Arabi, Brahimi and Davutoğlu discussed the issue of a Syrian cease-fire through Eid al-Adha, the minister said. Citing Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s recent meeting with the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Davutoğlu said Turkey was in agreement with Iran on the truce.

“Now the next step taken by the Syrian regime on the issue carries great importance. The situation would become clear when Brahimi visits Syria,” Davutoğlu said. Meanwhile, Brahimi arrived in Damascus to talk about the details of the cease-fire.

Egypt also called for a cease-fire, President Mohamed Morsi’s office said in a statement. Germany, a member of the U.N. Security Council, added its support for a temporary cease-fire.

Three Syrian shells

“This would be an important humanitarian glimmer of hope for people in Syria,” Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said in a statement. Amid calls from leaders, Turkish artillery struck back at Syria on Oct. 19 after three Syrian shells landed in Turkish territory, according to Doğan news agency. The shells fell into an empty field in Hatay province near the Syrian border.

Turkey has been retaliating systematically on each occasion that its border with Syria has been breached by mortar bombs or shells since Syrian fire killed five Turkish citizens on Oct. 3. In Brussels, EU leaders strongly condemned the recent Syrian shellings of Turkish border territories and stressed the need to prevent escalation.

The incident came a day after the army staged a new military drill near Syria border. The exercise took place in Suruç near Şanlıurfa province and involved mostly tanks.

On the ground, Syrian jets hammered a rebel town on Oct. 19 on the second day of an assault in which the regime is accused of using cluster bombs. Rebels and loyalists of President Bashar al-Assad locked in battle for the northwestern town of Maaret al-Numan on the highway linking Syria’s two biggest cities. Rebels showed debris from cluster bombs which they accused the air force of dropping on residential areas, as well as dozens of other bomblets that failed to explode on impact. Human Rights Watch has accused Syria of using cluster bombs, a charge denied by the military which insists it does not possess them.

October/20/2012

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