The Latest: EU foreign policy chief in Iran for Syria talks
BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on the conflict in Syria (all times local):
An Iranian news agency says EU’s foreign policy chief has arrived in Tehran for talks on the conflict in Syria.
The semi-official ISNA news agency says Federica Mogherini will meet President Hassan Rouhani and the country’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, the following day.
The report says Mogherini will leave for Saudi Arabia on Saturday afternoon. The Sunni kingdom and the Shiite power Iran support opposite sides in the civil war in Syria, now in its sixth year. Iran is one of the staunchest backers of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Mogherini earlier on Friday held talks in Cyprus with Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides on the battle in Iraq to retake the city of Mosul from the Islamic State group.
Turkey’s prime minister says the country will not participate in the United States’ operation to kick the Islamic State group out of their capital Raqqa if Syrian Kurdish fighters are included.
Binali Yildirim said Friday Turkey would participate in the fight, “However, if groups we classify as terrorist organizations like the PYD and YPG are included in the operation, we will not be there.”
The U.S. considers the Democratic Union Party, or PYD, and its armed wing, the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, as the most effective ground force in the fight against IS and has said they will be part of the offensive.
But Ankara views them as an extension of its own outlawed Kurdish group which has fought an insurgency against the state for decades.
Russia says its embassy in Damascus has been shelled by militants holed up on the outskirts of the Syrian capital, but no one has been hurt.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said one of the mortar rounds landed Friday near the embassy’s main entrance and another exploded outside its fence. It said the building was damaged and four vehicles were also hit.
The ministry said the perpetrators of the attack will be tracked down and punished.
It added that Moscow will carefully monitor the international reaction to the shelling to see “who of our partners denounces terrorism, and who protects ... terrorists and points (out) ‘convenient’ targets to them.”
Russian president’s spokesman says Vladimir Putin has rejected the military’s request for the resumption of airstrikes in Syria on the rebel-held eastern part of the city of Aleppo.
Dmitry Peskov says the president turned down the Russian military’s request on Friday amid a new rebel offensive underway in the contested Syrian city.
Peskov says that Putin considers it “inadvisable to resume airstrikes on Aleppo,” and wants to have humanitarian corridors out of Aleppo’s rebel-held districts stay open both for rebels and civilians to leave the city.
Peskov noted that the “humanitarian pause” will give Washington time to honor its pledge to separate moderate rebels from al-Qaida linked militants in eastern Aleppo. He added, however, that Russia retains the right to offer all possible support to the Syrian army.
The Russian military says it has asked President Vladimir Putin to allow the resumption of airstrikes in Syria on the rebel-held eastern part of the city of Aleppo due to a fresh rebel offensive there.
Lt. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi said the opposition fighters attempted on Friday to break the siege of the eastern, rebel-held part of Aleppo, using rocket launchers, artillery and armor. He says all attacks have been repelled, but have caused numerous casualties among civilians.
He says the attackers took advantage of a 10-day moratorium on military flights over Aleppo, which was announced by Moscow.
Rudskoi said 43 civilians have been killed and 96 wounded in the militant shelling of the government-controlled western Aleppo in the past three days. He particularly noted the shelling of two schools.
Syrian state media say pro-government forces have repelled a rebel attack in Aleppo as well as a militant attack by the extremist Islamic State group near the contested city.
The SANA news agency reported that the military and allied militias on Friday thwarted assaults on several front lines around the government-controlled western districts of the city, while also repelling a separate IS assault on an Air Force academy to the city’s east.
The rebels have launched a large-scale offensive to break the government’s siege of Aleppo’s opposition-held, eastern districts with three explosive-laden vehicles and dozens of rockets targeting government-controlled western districts.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights is reporting that 15 civilians have been killed in the rebel bombardment, and over 100 wounded.
The Observatory says clashes are ongoing around the city.
After a three-way meeting in Moscow, the foreign ministers of Russia, Syria and Iran say their countries have agreed to intensify the fight against terrorism in Syria.
Russia’s Sergey Lavrov made the statement on Friday after meeting with Syrian counterpart Walid al-Moallem and Iran’s Javad Zarif.
Lavrov said at a news conference that the fight would come in parallel with efforts to improve humanitarian aid.
He also reiterated Russian denials that its warplanes were responsible for an attack on a school in Idlib province that the U.N. children’s agency says killed 22 children and six teachers.
The Russian military on Thursday dismissed reports of the airstrike as a sham, citing images in the media showing desks standing intact next to a wall blown out allegedly by that very airstrike, while such an attack would have caused more extensive damage.
Syria’s foreign minister says government forces could agree to another cessation of fighting around the city of Aleppo, but only if it receives guarantees from rebel forces that civilians would be allowed to leave the city.
At a news conference with his Russian counterpart in Moscow, Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said Friday that the recent so-called “humanitarian pause” in the Aleppo fighting was ruined by fighters whom he called terrorists firing on the evacuation corridors.
“We are ready to again repeat this attempt after we receive guarantees that confirm that the countries supporting these terrorist organizations are prepared to act so that civilians could use the cease-fire,” he said.
Syrian state media says seven civilians have been killed by rebel shelling on government-controlled areas of Aleppo.
The SANA news agency reported that 70 others were injured in the contested city Friday.
Rebels launched a large-scale offensive to break the government’s siege of Aleppo’s opposition-held, eastern districts with three explosive-laden vehicles and dozens of rockets to target the government-controlled western districts.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights is reporting that 15 civilians have been killed in the rebel bombardment, and over 100 injured.
An official with al-Qaida’s branch in Syria says a French member of the group carried out a suicide attack in the northern city of Aleppo against government positions.
The Fatah al-Sham Front official said the French citizen drove a tank rigged with explosives and parked it near government positions then detonated it from a distance. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to brief the media, said the Frenchman then drove another tank into the same place and detonated himself. He did not reveal the identity of the Frenchman.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed that a Frenchman carried out a suicide attack.
The attack comes as part of a large-scale rebel offensive to break the government’s siege of opposition-held areas.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is hosting the foreign ministers of Syria and Iran in Moscow as the Syrian army’s siege of the rebel-held districts of the city of Aleppo continues.
Lavrov said in televised remarks on Friday at the start of the talks that Russia will keep supporting the Syrian government while the West is considering news sanctions to put pressure on both countries to halt an offense against rebel-held parts of Aleppo, which had drawn international outrage.
Lavrov will talk with with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem and Iran’s Mohammad Javad Zarif separately before the three of them sit down for three-way talks later Friday. Iran is another key backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Syrian rebel groups say they have launched a large-scale offensive to break the government’s siege of eastern Aleppo, a contested city in the north of the country and the current focal point of the six-year war.
The Islamic Front rebel coalition announced on Twitter Friday morning that the ultraconservative Ahrar al-Sham group targeted a military airport to the east of the city with Grad rockets and destroyed a government position to the west of the city.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said rebels detonated two car bombs against government positions to the city’s southwest and attacked with more than 150 rockets.
Ammar Sakkar, the military spokesman for the Fastaqim faction inside the city said “all the revolutionary factions, without exception, are participating in the battle.”