Turkey says 'seriously concerned' over viability of Syria ceasefire

26th February 2016, Comments 0 comments

Turkey on Friday expressed alarm over the viability of an upcoming ceasefire agreed between Syria's warring parties, as the Syrian regime and its ally Russia pressed ahead with an offensive.

"We support the ceasefire in principle. Turkey has played an active role in the making of this decision," presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin told reporters in Ankara.

"But considering what has happened so far... we are seriously concerned over the future of the ceasefire because of the continuing Russian air raids and ground attacks by forces of (Syrian President Bashar) al-Assad," he said.

The partial truce, brokered by Russia and the United States, is due to begin at midnight Friday.

But the Kremlin confirmed Friday that Russian warplanes were continuing to bomb "terrorist organisations" in Syria hours before the deadline.

"We want to see what becomes concrete on the ground," Kalin said.

"I hope the ceasefire due to begin at midnight will halt the conflict, stop civilian deaths and open the way for humanitarian aid urgently needed by Syrian people in different regions like Aleppo and Idlib."

But he added: "Unfortunately, we have received the news that even now attacks are continuing in the north of Aleppo, in Azaz, Tal Rifaat, Idlib and the Turkmen mountain region."

Kalin said Assad's regime has so far used similar peace initiatives to "buy time" and hoped it would be different this time.

"The bad course of events on the ground is unfortunately not encouraging us to be optimistic on this issue," he said.

The "cessation of hostilities" deal -- which excludes the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group and other extremists -- marks the biggest diplomatic push yet to help end Syria's violence, but has been plagued by doubts after the failure of previous peace efforts.

Turkey said the ceasefire deal should have excluded Syrian Kurdish militia fighters branded as a "terror group" by Ankara and said the deal was not binding for Ankara if its national security was threatened.

The Turkish military on successive days last week targeted Kurdish fighters inside Syria with artillery barrages, saying that the army was responding to incoming fire, and had repeatedly reserved the right to open fire again.

© 2016 AFP

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