Ankara provided logistic support in Syria swap deal, says Foreign Ministry
Sevil Erkuş – ANKARA
AA photoTurkey provided logistic support for the evacuation on Dec. 28 of two besieged areas under a United Nations-sponsored agreement brokered by regional powers as part of efforts by the U.N. to establish local deals on cease-fires and safe passage, the Turkish Foreign Ministry has said.
“During the course of a day-long operation, Turkey facilitated the safe exchange of injured people together with their accompanying family members from Zabadani, northwest of Damascus, and Fuaa and Kefraya, northeast of Idlib, which had long been besieged by opposing sides in Syria,” the Foreign Ministry said in a written statement issued on Dec. 29.
The injured and their companions were transported to Lebanon and Turkey by aircraft provided by Turkish Airlines (THY), read the statement.
The ministry said the U.N. had sought Turkey’s assistance on the issue some time ago.
“Turkey, not being a party to the talks or the relevant agreement, did not let the U.N.’s call go unanswered, providing all the help and contribution for this operation to be realized through the mutual consent of the parties,” said the statement.
A total of 338 Shiite Syrians, including 107 injured, who were trapped in the Fuaa and Kefraya villages, the last two government-held Shiite villages in Idlib province, were brought to Turkey’s southern province of Hatay and two THY planes took them to Beirut on Dec. 28. The Shiite Syrians were then transferred to the Sayyidah Zaynab district in Damascus, Humanitarian Relief Foundation (İHH) official İzzet Şahin said.
Simultaneously a total of 126, including 54 injured, opposition members evacuated Zabadani near Lebanon and were transferred from Beirut to Turkey, Şahin noted.
The operation was conducted within a day, and all transfers from villages to Beirut and Turkey and air flights were carried out simultaneously as part of the deal, he added.
Seven of the injured, plus seven of their companions, were still under treatment in Turkish hospitals.
Although he was part of the deal, one of the Syrian opposition fighters that was evacuated from Fuaa village was rejected by the Lebanese Army and could not leave the region, an İHH official told Hürriyet Daily News.
Less than 1,000 fighters still in Zabadani village
The governments of Turkey and Lebanon, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the İHH, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Syrian Red crescent cooperated for the deal, Şahin stated.
Militants from Al-Fatah (Army of Conquest) from the Syrian opposition provided road security while the Shiite Syrians were transferred from Fuaa village to Turkey, he said, adding the group maintained security along every 200-300 meters of road.
Less than 1,000 Syrians, mostly opposition fighters, preferred to stay in Zabadani, he said.