Obama welcomes Turkey’s efforts for Syria truce in call with Erdoğan

Obama welcomes Turkey’s efforts for Syria truce in call with Erdoğan

Obama welcomes Turkey’s efforts for Syria truce in call with Erdoğan

AFP photo

U.S. President Barack Obama welcomed Turkey’s efforts to facilitate a nationwide cease-fire in Syria and a return to political negotiations between the Syrian government and the opposition during a telephone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Jan. 3, a White House statement said.

The cease-fire brokered by Turkey and Russia took effect on Dec. 30, 2016 in the country that has been locked in a devastating war since 2011. 

Turkish presidential sources, meanwhile, said Erdoğan and Obama discussed the Syrian ceasefire and the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), according to state-run Anadolu Agency. 

Obama and Erdoğan “noted recent progress in the Coalition’s campaign against ISIL in Iraq and Syria, and agreed on the need to continue and deepen coordination between the United States and Turkey,” the White House statement read, referring to the U.S.-led anti-ISIL coalition of which Turkey is a part. 

Obama also expressed his condolences for the deadly terror attack in the first hours of the New Year at an Istanbul nightclub that claimed 39 lives and injured more than 60 other victims, along with the Dec. 17, 2016 attack on off-duty Turkish soldiers in the Central Anatolian province of Kayseri that killed 13 troops. A wing of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) claimed responsibility.

“The two leaders agreed that Turkey and the United States must continue to stand united in order to defeat terrorism,” the White House said. 

Meanwhile, an air strike in Syria on Jan. 3 killed at least 25 members of former al-Qaeda affiliate Fateh al-Sham Front including senior figures, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Unidentified aircraft hit one of the group’s most important bases in Syria, in the northwestern province of Idlib, the Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

Among the dead were leading members of the group, formerly known as al-Nusra Front, who were holding a meeting there, he said, without identifying them.

Fateh al-Sham used its Telegram account to accuse the U.S.-led coalition of carrying out the raid.

“More than 20 martyrs after the Crusader coalition targeted a central base in the north Idlib countryside,” it said.

An AFP correspondent said several strikes had hit the town including one on a Fateh al-Sham checkpoint. He saw ambulances rushing to the area.

The strike came four days into a fragile cease-fire between Syria’s regime and major rebel groups brokered by Russia and Turkey.

Moscow and Damascus say the truce does not cover Fateh al-Sham or ISIL, labelled by the U.N. Security Council as “terrorist” organizations.

Rebel groups say that Idlib is covered by the agreement.