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Russia Says Ready To Discuss Syrian Truce


A man drives his motorbike past damaged buildings in Harasta, east of the Syrian capital, Damascus, on February 10.
A man drives his motorbike past damaged buildings in Harasta, east of the Syrian capital, Damascus, on February 10.

Russia says it is ready to discuss a possible cease-fire in Syria ahead of fresh talks on the Syrian crisis in Germany.

Ahead of talks in Munich on February 11, Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said the Russian side was ready to discuss “the modalities” of a truce.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov were chairing the meeting of the Syrian contact group, which includes states and international organizations.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, meanwhile, dismissed as speculation reports that Russia was ready to propose a cease-fire in Syria starting on March 1.

Syrian peace talks collapsed last week in Geneva amid a Syrian government offensive, backed by Russian air strikes, to retake the city of Aleppo. As a result of the military push, tens of thousands have fled to the Turkish border.

On February 11, a senior Russian diplomat said Moscow opposed plans to establish a "safe zone" along the Turkey-Syria border.

Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Syromolotov told Interfax that Russia opposed "any attempts" by the U.S.-led coalition to deploy troops in Syria's north without asking the Syrian government or United Nations first.

In Ankara, Turkey's president renewed a call for the establishment of a secure, no-fly zone in Syria, saying it is the only way to deal with the influx of migrants and refugees.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan on February 11 also criticized the United Nations, which has demanded that Turkey open its border to a new wave of Syrian refugees. Turkey is already home to more than 2.6 million Syrian refugees.

Erdogan said the world body should be focusing on ending an "ethnic cleansing" unfolding around the Syrian city of Aleppo instead of making demands on Turkey.

Elsewhere, the U.S. military denied carrying out any strikes on February 10 in or around Aleppo.

A Baghdad-based spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group said any claims to the contrary were a "fabrication."

Russia's Defense Ministry said earlier on February 11 that two U.S. aircraft had bombed the Syrian city of Aleppo on February 10.

Meanwhile, a fresh UN report said the Syrian military offensive has cut off 120,000 people in the northern province of Homs since mid-January, worsening hunger and killing patients unable to get to medical care, a UN report said on February 11.

Kurdish Gains

In related news, Syrian activists say Kurdish-led fighters have captured a rebel-held former military airport near the Turkish border.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the Menagh air base fell to the People's Protection Units (YPG) and their allies late on February 10.

The Observatory said Menagh has been the scene of fierce fighting between Kurdish fighters and other rebels, adding that warplanes believed to be Russian carried out at least 30 air strikes in support of the Kurds as they advanced in the area.

Kurdish fighters appeared to have been taking advantage of a major Syrian ground offensive around the city of Aleppo to gain ground in the area.

Reports say the Kurds have grabbed a number of villages that rebels had to evacuate to confront advancing Syrian troops coming from the south.

Russian Strikes

In Moscow, Russia says its air strikes have hit some 1,900 targets across Syria in the past week.

The Defense Ministry said on February 11 that the strikes struck targets in the provinces of Aleppo, Latakia, Hama, Deir ez-Zor, Daraa, Homs, Hasakah, and Raqqah.

The ministry also rejected accusations of targeting residential areas of Aleppo and denied responsibility for the alleged destruction of two hospitals in the northern Syrian city.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has warned that the surge in fighting displaced some 50,000 people in the whole province.

The humanitarian situation is deteriorating rapidly in the city, it said, with supply routes for aid cut.

With reporting by AP, AFP, Reuters, Interfax, and TASS
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