The Latest: US urges Russia to get Syria to end violence

AP News
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Posted: Apr 12, 2016 4:00 PM
The Latest: US urges Russia to get Syria to end violence

BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on the Syrian civil war (all times local):

10 p.m.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations is urging Russia and other countries with influence to get the Syrian government to honor the cease-fire, warning that the current escalation of violence could threaten this week's peace talks in Geneva.

Samantha Power told reporters after U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura briefed the Security Council on Tuesday that the United States is "very alarmed" at Syria's announcement of an offensive around Aleppo which would hurt prospects to end the five-year Syrian conflict.

Power criticized Syria for allowing only two humanitarian convoys in April and no access to the besieged town of Daraya where "there are reports of kids walking around looking like skeletons" and people eating grass.

She says "it is a much more delicate environment for de Mistura to convene political talks when you're seeing regressions on humanitarian access and regressions on the cessation of hostilities."

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8 p.m.

The head of the world's largest bloc of Islamic countries says there should be no place for President Bashar Assad in the foreseeable future in Syria.

Tuesday's remarks by Iyad Madani, the secretary-general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, came on the eve of a new round of indirect peace talks in Geneva. Madani spoke after a meeting of OIC member-states' foreign ministers in Istanbul.

Madani says the 57-member OIC does not believe Assad can be "part of the solution." He says that the Syrian president "is not even part of the problem. He is the problem itself."

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7:30 p.m.

The U.N. special envoy for Syria says he and a leading Iranian diplomat agree that steps toward political transition in the war-ravaged Syria are "crucially urgent."

Staffan de Mistura met with Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in Tehran on Tuesday as he ended a trip through the region ahead of Wednesday's resumption of Syria peace talks in Geneva.

In comments relayed later by his office, de Mistura said it was important to meet with Iranian officials because they have "influence" and have been giving him advice during the talks that resumed in February.

Iran is a key backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

On Sunday, Iranian state TV quoted a top adviser to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as saying that Iran believes Assad should remain in power until the end of his term.

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12 p.m.

Turkey's state-run news agency says Turkish artillery have shelled Islamic State targets across the border in Syria, after rockets fired from Syria struck a Turkish border town.

Anadolu Agency says Turkish military fired at IS positions around the town of Azaz, in northern Syria.

Two rockets landed in the Turkish town of Kilis on Tuesday, wounding at least eight people. At least four other people were wounded in a similar incident on Monday.

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11:30 a.m.

Russia says one of its helicopters crashed in Syria, killing the two pilots.

The Defense Ministry says the Mi-28N helicopter gunship crashed early Tuesday near Homs after completing its mission. It says there is no evidence that it came under fire.

The ministry says the bodies of the pilots have been recovered and taken to the Hemeimeem air base on Syria's coast.

Russia has been carrying out airstrikes since Sept. 30 in support of Syrian government forces. The air campaign has allowed Russia to test some of its latest weapons, including the Mi-28 helicopter.

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9:30 a.m.

A pro-government media outlet says Syrian troops have launched an offensive to retake a strategic hilltop village south of Aleppo from insurgents, including al-Qaida's local affiliate.

Al-Manar TV says the attack on Tel al-Ais was launched on Tuesday. Al-Manar is run by Lebanon's Hezbollah militant group, which is fighting alongside Syrian government forces.

The village overlooks a supply line connecting the capital, Damascus, to the northern city of Aleppo, parts of which have been held by insurgents since 2012.

A coalition of insurgent factions captured Tel al-Ais earlier this month after heavy fighting despite a U.S. and Russian-brokered cease-fire, which excludes the al-Qaida-affiliated Nusra Front.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an activist-run monitoring group, says clashes are ongoing around Tel al-Ais and the nearby village of Khan Touman.