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15 March, 2019 00:00 00 AM
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Turkey, Russia eye closer coordination on Syria

AFP, Istanbul
Turkey, Russia eye closer coordination on Syria

Turkey and Russia are discussing a "coordination centre" to better manage their operations in Syria's rebel-controlled Idlib province, Turkey's defence minister said. Regime ally Russia and Turkey, which supports rebels, have been on opposite sides in the Syrian war. But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russia's Vladimir Putin have been working closely to end the fighting. A Russian-Turkish deal for a demilitarised zone last year protected the Idlib rebel bastion.

The two countries and Ankara are already preparing joint patrols around the northwestern Syrian region. "We are working on a joint coordination centre," Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said after a meeting Wednesday , according to a ministry statement yesterday.

His remarks came as Russian jets carried out air strikes in Idlib on Wednesday, the first such attacks since the Turkish-Russian deal was signed in September as a way to prevent major bloodshed.

At least 13 civilians, including six infants were killed in the raids, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor that relies on sources inside Syria.

Earlier this month, Turkey said its forces and Russians would begin ground patrols around Idlib province as part of their ceasefire deal.

Idlib is controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a group led by Syria's former al Qaeda affiliate.

HTS in January took control of the administration of Idlib's region where three million people have been protected. A Turkish-backed National Liberation Front controls part of the rebel stronghold.

The Russian-Turkish agreement was supposed to see hardline jihadists withdraw from Idlib but they never did.

The ceasefire has held except for sporadic bombardments and skirmishes, avoiding an all-out Syrian military assault.

Another AFP report adds: Kurdish-led fighters backed by US warplanes tried yesterday to break the last defences of holdout Islamic State group jihadists making a suicidal last stand in a remote Syrian village.

All that remains of a sprawling cross-border "caliphate" the jihadists declared in 2014 is a battered riverside camp in eastern Syria on the Iraqi border.

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces have since Sunday rained fire on the enclave in a bend of the Euphrates River, blitzing thousands of IS members into surrender.

But hardliners still inside are putting up fierce resistance, hiding underground from air strikes by a US-led coalition, and unleashing suicide bombers on advancing forces.

A spokesman for the Kurdish units on the ground inside the village of Baghouz yesterday said these tactics were preventing a speedy advance.

"There is progress but it is slow as the area is narrow," said Jiaker Amed, a spokesman for the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) taking part in the fight. "Those who stayed inside are mostly suicide bombers blowing themselves up, which is impeding the advance," he said.

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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