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The Latest: Obama consults with Britain, France, Germany

February 23, 2016

BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on the conflict in Syria and the provisional cease-fire proposed by the U.S. and Russia (all times local):

11:30 p.m.

President Barack Obama is consulting with the leaders of Britain, France and Germany about the possible cease-fire in Syria and its impact on the humanitarian crisis there.

The White House says Obama spoke Tuesday by videoconference with British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

A White House statement says the leaders called on all parties in Syria to follow the terms of cease-fire set to begin early Saturday. They called for an immediate end to indiscriminate bombing of civilians.

The White House says Obama also discussed plans to address humanitarian needs in Syria, as well as coordination between Greece and Turkey to manage the flow of migrants into Europe.


11:05 p.m.:

Russia’s deputy foreign minister says he expects U.N.-sponsored peace talks between the Syrian government and opposition to resume in days.

Gennady Gatilov said at U.N. headquarters in New York that what’s needed now is implementation of the U.S.-Russia agreement on a “cessation of hostilities” set to begin at midnight Friday, Syria time.

With political will, Gatilov said, “we can achieve great results.”

U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura had set Feb. 25 for the resumption of talks after they were suspended earlier this month.

Gatilov said de Mistura is working on reviving the talks and “we are talking days, more than weeks.”

He reiterated President Vladimir Putin’s announcement that Russia will continue striking “terrorist organizations” identified by the Security Council, like the Islamic State extremist group and the Nusra Front.


9 p.m.

The U.N. Security Council has condemned recent attacks in Syria claimed by the Islamic State group and is urging all countries to implement U.N. resolutions aimed at preventing the recruitment and travel of would-be fighters seeking to join the extremist IS group, the al-Qaida branch in Syria known as the Nusra Front and other militant groups.

The council on Tuesday also condemned the impact of “violent extremist ideology and actions” on the stability of Syria, neighboring countries and the region.

The IS attacks in Homs and Damascus on Sunday killed more than 130 people and injured hundreds more.

Council members underscored the need to implement a U.N. resolution and a statement adopted by key nations in Munich outlining a path to peace in Syria, including a “cessation of hostilities.” They urged a resumption of U.N.-sponsored negotiations as soon as possible.


7:20 p.m.

The U.N. humanitarian agency says aid convoys are delivering food and medical supplies to thousands of people living in two besieged suburbs of the Syrian capital, Damascus.

Spokesman Jens Laerke of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says the deliveries are “underway” to help some 20,000 people in Moadamiyeh and another 10,000 people in Kfar Batna.

Laerke said by phone Tuesday that the deliveries follow on similar convoys last week to five other besieged towns. He says “these are the first of what we hope will be a series of deliveries to people who have not been reached for a long time.”

The deliveries came a day after the U.S. and Russia agreed on a planned Syrian cease-fire to begin Saturday. The Syrian government and the main Syrian opposition group have conditionally agreed to the truce.


6.00 p.m.

The Russian military says it has set up a coordination center to help enforce a cease-fire in Syria.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, Maj.-Gen. Igor Konashenkov, said Tuesday the center is located at Syria’s Hemeimeem air base hosting Russian warplanes.

Konashenkov said in a statement that the center has been created in line with a U.S.-Russian agreement on a cease-fire set to take effect Saturday.

As part of the deal, Russia has agreed to halt its air campaign against groups that would respect the truce. The cease-fire will not cover the Islamic State group or the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front.

Konashenkov said the coordination center will help organize cease-fire negotiations between the Syrian government and the opposition. He said Russia has given out its hotline numbers for enforcing the truce to the U.S.


3.15 p.m.

The Islamic State group has captured an important town in northern Syria, cutting supply lines for government forces between the northern city of Aleppo and central and western Syria.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says IS fighters captured Khanaser on Tuesday along with 12 hills around it.

The Aamaq news agency, which is affiliated with the extremist group, also reported that IS fighters are now in “full control” of Khanaser, southeast of the city of Aleppo.

The capture of Khanaser comes a day after Islamic militias assaulted government-held positions around the town, setting off intense clashes.

Khanaser lies along the government’s only access route to Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and once commercial center.


3 p.m.

A U.N. spokesman says new humanitarian aid deliveries are planned for two suburbs of Syria’s capital, Damascus, in the “coming days.”

Ahmad Fawzi says the deliveries to Moadamiyeh and Kfar Batna will follow other deliveries of aid to besieged areas of Syria in recent weeks.

His comments Tuesday to reporters in Geneva came a day after the U.S. and Russia announced a “cessation of hostilities” agreement set to begin Saturday.

The truce would include Syrian government and opposition forces but not the Islamic State group or the al-Qaida-affiliated Nusra Front.

Fawzi said U.N. special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura will brief the Security Council “very soon,” and that separate task forces on the cessation of hostilities and humanitarian aid for Syria are to meet this week.


2:10 p.m.

Turkey’s prime minister is accusing Russia and Syria, along with Islamic State militants and U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish militia, of attempting to form a “terror belt” along its border with Syria and says his country won’t let it happen.

In the weekly address to legislators from his ruling party Tuesday, Ahmet Davutoglu says the aim is to establish a terror “structure” — made up of the Islamic State group and the U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish militia group YPG — in Syria’s north. Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist organization because of its links to Turkey’s outlawed Kurdish rebels.

“Turkey is aware of these games aiming to make Turkey a neighbor with a terror structure and will not allow it,” Davutoglu said.


1:20 p.m.

Turkey’s deputy prime minister says his country supports the cease-fire agreement for Syria but suggests that its military could continue firing on Syrian Kurdish groups in Syria if their militia “attack” Turkey.

Turkey has been shelling U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish militia positions in Syria, maintaining that it is responding to attacks or provocations.

Numan Kurtulmus told journalists on Tuesday: “We hope that the PYD will not attack Turkey after Saturday. Of course, Turkey has the right to defend its territory.” He was referring to the Syrian Kurdish group, the Democratic Union Party.

Turkey views the U.S.-backed PYD and its armed wing, the YPG, as terrorists because of their affiliation with Turkey’s own outlawed Kurdish rebels.

Kurtulmus also said that while Turkey welcomes the provisional truce agreed for Syria, it has “reservations and fears” about possible continued Russian airstrikes on civilians.


12 p.m.

The Syrian government says that it accepts a proposed truce in the country, adding that operations will continue against the Islamic State group and al-Qaida’s branch in Syria.

A Foreign Ministry statement on Tuesday says government forces will have the right to respond to any violation carried out by insurgents.

The official Syrian announcement comes a day after the United States and Russia agreed on a new cease-fire for Syria that will take effect Saturday.

The main umbrella for Syrian opposition and rebel groups said late Monday that it “agrees to a temporary truce” as long as the main opposition’s demands are met.

Indirect peace talks between the Syrian government and HNC collapsed on Feb. 3, because of a large-scale government offensive.


10:30 a.m.

The main umbrella for Syrian opposition and rebel groups says it “agrees to a temporary truce” as long as the main opposition’s demands are met.

The High Negotiations Committee says in a statement issued after its meeting in Saudi Arabia late Monday that it “has given its acceptance of international efforts for a cessation of hostilities in Syria.”

The announcement came hours after the United States and Russia agreed on a new cease-fire for Syria that will take effect Saturday.

The HNC says “acceptance of the truce is conditional” to the Syrian government ending its siege of 18 rebel-held areas, releasing detainees and the cessation of aerial and artillery bombardment.

Indirect peace talks between the Syrian government and HNC collapsed on Feb. 3, because of a large-scale government offensive.

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