The Latest: France calls on Syria to halt airstrikes
Feb. 14, 2016
BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on the civil war in Syria (all times local):
France has called for an immediate end to airstrikes by Syria's government and its allies and a halt to the Turkish shelling of Kurdish areas.
The statement Sunday expressed concern about the "deteriorating situation in Aleppo and northern Syria."
France has carried out repeated airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria, sharply increasing the number of missions since the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris by a group of French-speaking extremists who had fought for the group.
France's military said its own fighter jets struck Iraq 26 times last week and Syria once.
The Syrian government has condemned Turkey's shelling of Syrian territory, describing it as an attempt to raise the morale of "terrorist" groups.
In two messages sent Sunday to the U.N. secretary general and the president of the U.N. Security Council, Damascus also denounced recent statements made by the Turkish prime minister justifying shelling Kurdish fighters in Syria.
The government strongly urged the U.N. Security Council to put an end to the "crimes of the Turkish regime."
Turkey is one of the leading backers of the rebels fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad. The Syrian government refers to all rebel groups as "terrorists."
Turkish forces shelled positions held by the main Kurdish militia in northern Syria for a second day Sunday.
Iran's air defense chief says his country is ready to help defend Syria's airspace.
The semi-official Tasnim news agency on Sunday quoted Gen. Farzad Esmaili as saying "We will help Syria in a full-fledged manner if the Syrian government requests help." He said any such aid would be provided in an "advisory" capacity.
Iran is a close ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad and has sent weapons, money and military advisers to Syria to help bolster his forces. Tehran denies it has sent combat troops, but several Iranian soldiers, including senior officers, have been killed on Syrian battlefields.
This is the first time Iran has offered to assist with Syrian air defenses.
Esmaili's remarks came after Turkey and Saudi Arabia -- leading supporters of the rebels battling to topple Assad -- said they were open to sending ground troops into Syria to battle the Islamic State group.
Opposition activists say Turkey has shelled positions held by the main Kurdish militia in northern Syria for a second day Sunday.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights activist group says two fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces — a coalition of Kurdish and Arab fighters — have been killed and seven others wounded in the shelling.
There was no immediate confirmation by the group, which is dominated by Kurdish fighters from the People's Protection Units known as the YPG.
The group has been on the march in the northern province of Aleppo near the Turkish border in recent days. That has alarmed Turkey, which considers the group to be an affiliate of the Kurdish PKK movement which it considers to be a terrorist organization.