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Turkey to step up Russia talks on Aleppo ceasefire

Civilians have been killed attempting to leave Aleppo [Getty]

Date of publication: 13 December, 2016

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Turkey steps up talks with Russia as international actors appeal to the Syrian regime to spare civilian lives.

Turkey will intensify talks with Russia and other countries for a ceasefire to end the "humanitarian tragedy" in the Syrian city of Aleppo, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Tuesday.

"Today, tomorrow, everyday, we will intensify our talks with Russia and other countries so we can find a solution to this humanitarian tragedy," Cavusoglu said at a press conference with his Czech counterpart in Ankara.

"Our efforts continue in particular for civilians to be able to leave and for a ceasefire," he said.

Asked about possible Aleppo talks with Moscow on Wednesday, Cavusoglu said Turkish officials often met with their Russian counterparts, insisting it was "not a special meeting".

Cavusoglu also denounced the deliberate targeting of hospitals.

Last week, six western powers said hospitals and schools appeared to have been targeted in the bombardments.

"We have seen Aleppo left alone and despite promising a ceasefire, we see Aleppo then continues to be cruelly bombed... Even if everyone is quiet, Turkey will not be quiet," he said.

Last minute appeals

It follows a number of appeals from international actors to limit civilian casualties as the regime takes Syria's second city.

The International Committee of the Red Cross in a statement on Tuesday urged all fighting in Aleppo to spare civilian lives.

It said thousands of people with no part in the violence "have literally nowhere safe to run."

"In order for this to happen, we appeal to the parties to put humanity ahead of military objectives", said ICRC's head of delegation in Syria, Marianne Gasser, who is currently in Aleppo.

"We stand ready to oversee the implementation of any mutual agreement that puts civilians first. We cannot urge this strongly enough: this must happen."

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement late Monday that he is alarmed over reports of atrocities against a large number of civilians, including women and children, in the past hours in Aleppo.

Ban also said the UN underlines the obligation of all parties on the ground to protect civilians and abide by international humanitarian and human rights law, adding that "this is particularly the responsibility of the Syrian government and its allies."

Several Syrian opposition activists claimed government forces were carrying out summary killings of rebels in the streets in neighbourhoods captured on Monday but the Syrian military denied the claims, saying such allegations were "a desperate attempt" to try gain international sympathy.

Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus' called for an immediate ceasefire and if that is too late, he called on the international community, European countries, regional countries and Turkey to organise an international aid convoy to people in need in Aleppo.

On Monday, staff members of the last remaining clinic in rebel-held territory in Aleppo huddled in a shelter as Syrian government forces pushed in. "Those killed and wounded are left on the streets," said the clinic's administrator, Mohammed Abu Rajab.

"The collapse is terrifying," said Bassam Haj Mustafa, a rebel spokesman in contact with fighters in the city. Opposition fighters were "doing their best to defend what is left," he added.

Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said more than 60 civilians and fighters were killed in rebel-held neighbourhoods of Aleppo on Monday alone.

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