Air strikes pound Idlib as Astana peace talks resume

Planes believed to be Russian struck the northwestern city of Idlib killing nine as peace talks in Astana resumed after rebels confirmed they will attend.

Photo by: Reuters Archive
Photo by: Reuters Archive

The previous round of peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan, February 16, 2017.

Air strikes pounded Syria's rebel-held Idlib province on Wednesday, killing at least nine people, including children, a war monitoring group said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said planes, believed to be Russian, struck the northwestern city of Idlib and the town of Maarat Misrin in the countryside.

Despite a ceasefire originally brokered by Turkey and Russia in December 2016, then extended, each side accuses the other of continued attacks.

"They expelled us from Aleppo … And just as we fight for all of Syria, Aleppo is still a main target for us," a Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebel commander said.

TRT World 's Ediz Tiyansan visited one of the opposition groups taking part in operations in Al Rai in northern Syria.

Astana talks resume

Talks resumed in Astana on Wednesday after the Turkey-backed FSA said it would send five officers to the Kazak capital later on Wednesday to take part in consultations at an expert level.

The rebel group on Tuesday had said it would not attend the talks after blaming Russia for failing to uphold the December ceasefire.

On Wednesday, the delegations from Turkey, Russia and Iran issued a joint statement saying the next round would be on May 3-4, Kazakhstan's Deputy Foreign Minister Akylbek Kamaldinov said.

Russian negotiator Alexander Lavrentiev said some of the Russian, Turkish and Iranian delegates would remain in Astana for meetings with rebels.

The current round of talks was originally scheduled to start on Tuesday and run for two days. They are now expected to end on Thursday.

Kazakhstan's foreign minister on Wednesday said the rebel delegation was expected to arrive on Wednesday night.

"They will hold consultations tomorrow with experts from the guarantor countries Russia, Turkey, Iran, on the observation of the cessation of hostilities agreement," a spokesperson for the foreign ministry said.

The Astana process, which is focused on the ceasefire and cessation of hostilities as the war enters its seventh year, is running parallel to UN-backed talks in Geneva on political transition.

The first round of Astana talks on January 23-24 brought together the warring sides and high level delegations from Russia and Iran, which backs the regime, and Turkey, which backs the opposition. The US which backs the opposition attended at a lower level.

A second round of Astana talks was held in mid-February.

First aid convoys reach Syrian towns since November

Aid convoys reached four besieged towns in Syria on Tuesday, delivering food and medical supplies to 60,000 people for the first time since November, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and United Nations said.

Separate convoys of trucks were carrying medical supplies, food, wheat flour, and nutritional items to some 40,000 people in Madaya and Zabadani, two towns blockaded by pro-regime forces near the Lebanese border, and to 20,000 in Foua and Kafraya in Idlib, besieged by rebels, a spokesperson said.

Kevin Kennedy, UN regional humanitarian coordinator for the Syrian crisis, said on Tuesday that not a single inter-agency convoy last month was able to deliver, of the 20 that were requested.

Source: 
TRTWorld and agencies