The Latest: Iran’s Rouhani discusses Syria with Turkish FM

February 7, 2018

This photo provided by the Syrian Civil Defense group known as the White Helmets, shows what it says is one of its paramedics carrying his wounded son fleeing from the scene of an attack after airstrikes hit a rebel-held suburb near Damascus, Syria, Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018. Syrian opposition activists said more than one dozen people killed in new airstrikes. (Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets via AP)

BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on the situation in Syria (all times local):

9:20 p.m.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has discussed the war in Syria with visiting Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and offered Iranian assistance in helping allay Turkey’s concerns about Syria’s future.

The state-run IRNA news agency cited Rouhani as telling Cavusoglu during their meeting on Wednesday that “fortunately, the tripartite relations between Iran, Turkey and Russia today are very important in regional affairs” and urged for “further consultation and cooperation” to “resolve the Syrian crisis.”

Tehran and Ankara are on opposite sides in Syrias conflict — Turkey backs the rebels fighting against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces while Iran is a top Assad ally.

Rouhani also indirectly referred to Turkey’s military offensive against a U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish militia in northern Syria, saying: “We must try and act so that no country in the region feels threatened by its neighbors.”


8:20 p.m.

Sweden and Kuwait have called for a U.N. Security Council meeting on the escalating violence in several areas of Syria and the “dire consequences” for the already critical humanitarian situation in the war-torn country.

The council is expected to hear a briefing on Thursday and then hold closed-door consultations on the growing humanitarian crisis.

Sweden’s U.N. Ambassador Olof Skoog said the council needs to hear from U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock about what the council can do to support the U.N. call for a 30-day humanitarian cease-fire to deliver life-saving aid and evacuate critically ill people from besieged areas in Syria.

The Security Council is currently deadlocked on Syria, with Russia blocking a statement proposed by Sweden and Kuwait supporting five points urged by Lowcock.

Skoog said he is “particularly concerned about attacks against civilians and civilian objects, such as hospitals.”

He said aid deliveries to besieged and hard-to-reach areas also remain blocked, leading to “an even more acute situation” particularly in the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta.


3:15 p.m.

The Russian military is blaming unidentified foreign powers of supporting al-Qaida-linked militants in Syria.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Wednesday “al-Qaida terrorists have become an obedient tool in the hands of one or several technologically advanced nations unhappy about Russia’s key role in Syria.”

While Konashenkov didn’t name any specific country, his statement appeared directed at the U.S., following Moscow’s earlier claims that the U.S. protected al-Qaida militants in Syria. The U.S. has denied the allegations.

Konashenkov’s statement followed Saturday’s downing of a Russian jet by al-Qaida militants who used a shoulder-fired missile. He said the Russian military is investigating where the missile had come from and warned such missiles could threaten civilian aircraft.

Konashenkov warned that militants could “stab their sponsors in the back.”


3 p.m.

A senior Turkish official says the United States must put an end to policies that “poison” ties between the two NATO allies, including supporting Syrian Kurdish militia.

Ibrahim Kalin, spokesman for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, made the comments on Wednesday ahead of a planned visit by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster to Turkey next week.

Kalin said Turkey would take up U.S. support to the militia, as well as the extradition of a U.S.-based cleric blamed for a 2016 failed coup during the talks. He said the United States had to take “concrete steps on the ground” to restore Turkey’s trust.

A Turkish military offensive to drive Syrian Kurdish militia out of the Syrian enclave of Afrin has deepened tensions between the two countries.

Turkey regards the militia group as terrorists, while the U.S. considers the group its strongest partner in the fight against the Islamic State group in Syria


2:35 p.m.

The global chemical weapons watchdog says it is investigating recent allegations of chemical weapons use in Syria.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said its fact-finding mission is “investigating all credible allegations” and reporting its findings to the organization’s member states.

The mission, however, does not have a mandate to apportion blame for chemical attacks in Syria.

Earlier Wednesday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told BFM TV that “all indications show us today that the Syrian regime is using chlorine gas at the moment” in attacks on rebel-held areas.

On Tuesday, a U.N.-mandated investigator said his team was probing reports that bombs allegedly containing weaponized chlorine have been used on two recent occasions in Syria


11:25 a.m.

France says the Syrian government is likely using chlorine gas in its latest attacks on rebel-held areas.

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told BFM TV on Wednesday that “all indications show us today that the Syrian regime is using chlorine gas at the moment.”

The government and its ally Russia have been pounding a besieged rebel-held area outside Damascus for the last two days with airstrikes, killing dozens of people.

A U.N.-mandated investigator said Tuesday his team was probing reports that bombs allegedly containing weaponized chlorine have been used on two recent occasions in Syria.

“An investigation has been opened on that matter by the United Nations,” Le Drian said. “The threat of using chemical weapons remains, this is a very serious situation.”

Update hourly