Turkey continues to intensify diplomatic efforts with Russia to maintain a durable cease-fire and evacuate civilians from Aleppo, where nearly 100,000 people remain stuck in a small area, amid Iran-backed Shiite paramilitary groups and the Assad regime's attempts to end negotiations
The cease-fire agreement that was reached between the Syrian opposition and Russia on Tuesday evening in Aleppo with the mediation of Turkey was breached by the Assad regime and Iran-backed fanatical Shiite paramilitary groups early Wednesday. Despite intensified efforts from Turkey to maintain peace and initiating bilateral discussions with Russia to reach an agreement again and provide safe passage for civilians stuck in a small area of Aleppo, the regime and paramilitary groups intended to continue their bloody campaign against civilians in the city. Late Tuesday, all sides agreed on a cease-fire for the imminent evacuation of civilians and opposition fighters from east Aleppo.
Under the truce deal, civilians and opposition fighters would be granted safe passage to Idlib, from where they will be free to relocate and Turkey and Russia were served as guarantors for the agreement. However, the Assad regime forces and Iran-backed Shiite militias attacked east Aleppo, violating the truce while the sound of explosions was heard in the city early on in the day.
Syrian opposition officials confirmed the attacks in Aleppo and said that regime forces have resumed despite the cease-fire deal. Russia's Defense Ministry also confirmed that the regime forces resumed assault in eastern Aleppo.
Speaking on the issue at a meeting with municipal headmen, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan criticized the violation of cease-fire by the Assad regime and Shiite militias, noting that the strikes against Aleppo resumed within a few hours after the truce deal.
He also drew attention to the dire situation in Syria's Aleppo and said that Turkey's borders are open to those fleeing the crisis. "We are ready and prepared to welcome those who will leave Aleppo for Turkey" he said.
"I will have a phone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin over the situation this evening," Erdoğan said.
Regarding the cease-fire deal, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu also criticized Iran-backed paramilitary groups and the Assad regime for breaking the truce. "We are witnessing that the regime and some groups hindered the [cease-fire] deal. There are Russia, Iran, Iran-backed groups and of course the regime. No one should pass the buck to the other on such a humanitarian issue. There is an agreement and it should be implemented," he said.
Meanwhile, Çavuşoğlu also held a phone conversation yesteday with his Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif regarding the Aleppo issue.
"Iran-backed groups are religiously and politically motivated, so unlike Russia, it is hard to reach a deal with them," Professor Muhittin Ataman from Yıldırım Beyazıt University told Daily Sabah.
Ataman underscored that these Shiite groups are not only active in Syria, but also in many countries in the Middle East including Iraq and Yemen. He said that Iran is using these groups to totally destroy Syrian opposition.
"Russia has strategic interests in Aleppo, more general in Syria, so it is possible to reach a rational deal with them, which is not possible with the Shiite groups. They believe that they are taking Hussein's revenge by killing the civilians in Aleppo," Ataman said.
Iran-backed Shiite paramilitary groups are actively fighting in Syria along with Iraq. These groups have long threatened stability in the region, evoking fear among locals as they committed massacres against Sunni Muslim citizens many times, several human right groups reported. There have been numerous extremist Shiite militias in Syria and Iraq, most of which are under the control of extremists who are affiliated with Iranian authorities.
On the efforts, earlier Wednesday Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Moscow expected opposition resistance in Aleppo to end in the next "two to three days" and for the situation to be "resolved."
Lavrov said it was important to end the tragedy in Aleppo. He also added cooperation with Turkey on Syria would be more "fruitful" than with the U.S.
"We are in dialogue with the countries of the region, particularly with Turkey. Dialogue with Ankara would be more successful than the inconclusive sessions [that we had] with the U.S.," Lavrov said.
Meanwhile, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told Russian RT channel late Tuesday that Russia and Turkey continued to cooperate on Syria and both countries agreed on the territorial and political integrity of Syria.
Peskov said President Erdoğan and his Russian counterpart Putin maintained close dialogue on the matter.
US Senator said Obama's Syria policy 'complete disaster'
Lindsey Graham, the U.S. Senator for South Carolina on Tuesday slammed outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama over his foreign policy on Syria.
Pointing to the atrocities carried out by the Assad regime in Syria's city of Aleppo, the Republican lawmaker said the Obama administration failed in its Syria policy.
"The slaughter in #Aleppo is heart-breaking. President Obama's Syria policy has been a complete disaster," he said in a tweet.
"I'm afraid Obama's Syria policy will haunt the region and our nation for decades to come. Obama sat on the sidelines as Iran and Russia went all-in for Assad, effectively destroying the Syrian opposition," Graham added in Twitter.
"Assad's 'victory' in Aleppo is a nightmare for America," he concluded.