ISIL must be pushed back in northern Syria: Turkish minister
Emine Kart - ANKARA
AA photoThe Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) must immediately be pushed back from the Turkish border, said Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, who has intensified diplomatic efforts on Syria ahead of a May 9 meeting in Paris, adding that efforts were continuing to accomplish this goal.
Speaking to reporters in Ankara, the minister voiced frustration over ISIL’s persistent grip on Syria and Iraq despite what he said was a near two-year long effort by the U.S.-led coalition involving 65 countries.
“Daesh should be cleared from the region. This is the most permanent solution,” Çavuşoğlu said, using an Arabic term for ISIL.
“It should be removed from the Manbij region and cleared toward the south,” he said, referring to a town that has been used as an ISIL logistical hub.
Çavuşoğlu exchanged views with his French counterpart on developments surrounding the Syrian conflict, with a particular focus on concerns stemming from renewed rebel shelling of government-held areas in the deeply contested northern city of Aleppo.
He had a phone conversation with French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault on May 4 upon a request from the Turkish side, Turkish diplomatic sources told the Hürriyet Daily News.
“Developments taking place in Syria in recent days and especially the attacks on civilians in Aleppo were on the agenda of the conversation,” said the diplomatic source, speaking under customary condition of anonymity.
“Additionally, [the] meeting schedule on Syria for the forthcoming period also came to the agenda during the conversation,” the same source added.
During the same hours on May 4 in Paris, French government spokesperson Stephane Le Foll announced that France would host Çavuşoğlu on May 9, along with foreign ministers from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to discuss the breakdown in the Syrian peace process.
Turkish diplomatic sources said it was too early to talk about Çavuşoğlu’s schedule, although the issue was most probably discussed during his discussion with Ayrault.
Le Foll’s announcement came after a cabinet meeting in which Ayrault said he was concerned over the breakdown in negotiations following the surge of violence in Aleppo that has threatened a two-month cease-fire in the war-torn country, Agence France-Presse reported.
Talks were set to take place later on May 4 in Berlin between Ayrault, German FM Frank-Walter Steinmeier, U.N. peace envoy Staffan de Mistura and Riad Hijab, coordinator for the opposition umbrella group the High Negotiations Committee (HNC).
The U.N. Security Council was to convene later on May 4 in New York for an urgent meeting to discuss the Aleppo crisis, as demanded by Paris and London.
Aleppo, Syria’s former commercial center and its largest city, has been at the center of the conflict for the past two weeks, shattering a limited cease-fire that began in late February.
Diplomatic efforts have been continuing to stop the escalating violence that has killed nearly 300 people there since April 22.
Two Katyusha rockets fired from ISIL-controlled territory in Syria hit the southeastern border province of Kilis early on May 4.
Several farm animals were killed and wounded while a number of buildings were damaged when the rockets hit the gardens of the Forest Management Directorate and the Food, Agriculture and Livestock Directorate.
A total of 19 people have been killed and scores have been wounded by rockets fired at the border province since Jan. 18.
Meanwhile, at least 22 air strikes pounded a key rebel bastion east of the Syrian capital of Damascus on May 4 after a local freeze on fighting expired overnight, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The observatory said the suspected regime raids hit Eastern Ghouta as clashes with rebels erupted.
The fighting was centered on the town of Deir al-Assafir, where March air strikes by the regime killed 33 civilians, 12 of them children.
There was no immediate word on any casualties from the renewed fighting May 4, the observatory said.
Syrian state media said three people had been killed in renewed rebel shelling of government-held areas in Aleppo, while civil defense workers said air strikes on the rebel-held east of the city killed 11 civilians.
On May 3, rebel rockets killed 19 people in government-held territory of Aleppo, including an unspecified number at the al-Dabit hospital, the observatory said.