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Syrian Government Forces Clash With Kurds

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The key sticking point in the negotiations is the future of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“It would be negative for Russian Federation to move additional military equipment or personnel in to Syria”, Ben Rhodes, the US deputy national security adviser, told reporters Thursday in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where Obama and Gulf leaders were meeting to discuss Syria and other regional conflicts.

The Turkish military normally responds by firing back at targets in Syria, in line with its rules of engagement.

One of the largest ever global aid convoys has reached a government-besieged opposition stronghold in Syria.

Armed opposition groups that have signed the cease-fire must end their ties with the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front to avoid getting attacked, Alexei Borodavkin, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, who represents his country at Syria peace talks, said in an interview.

United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric said plans were under way to evacuate some 500 people including the sick, wounded and their family members “in urgent need of life-saving medical attention” from four besieged towns.

On a positive note, De Mistura said there had been some “modest but real” improvement in the delivery of humanitarian aid to besieged areas of Syria.

Anti-government activists say airstrikes in Syria’s northern city of Aleppo have killed at least seven people in rebel-held areas.

“There is also lots of diplomatic posturing and it’s normal”.

Many living in and around Rastan had fled fighting in neighbouring Hama province.

Further southwest in Hama province, warplanes targeted rebel-held areas in the strategic Ghab plain that borders Latakia province, Mr Assad’s coastal heartland. The Syrian government, however, is not willing to compromise and insists that Assad’s involvement in post-war Syria is non-negotiable.

De Mistura said Friday’s violence in Aleppo was “very worrisome”.

The convoy was made up of 65 trucks containing food, medicine and medical equipment, electricity generators and water treatment materials.

He said the global community counts 18 priority besieged areas in Syria: 15 by the government, two by the armed opposition, and one by the Islamic State.

“We think it would be negative for Russian Federation to move additional military equipment or personnel into Syria”.

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation secretary general Jens Stoltenberg echoed that stance, saying that Russian Federation has maintained a “considerable military presence” in support of the Syrian government despite announcing a partial withdrawal.

On the outskirts of the rebel-held town of Madaya, where dozens of residents starved to death a year ago, seven large white buses were used to evacuate residents.

The opposition accuses the government of violating the cessation of hostilities to capture Aleppo, Syria’s most populous city before the war, which has been divided between government-controlled and rebel-held zones for years.

The Syrian Arab Red Crescent Society said its convoy came under fire during the evacuation from Madaya and Zabadani, besieged by the government forces in rural Damascus.

Dozens of men, women and children got out of the bus and were checked by security officials before boarding once more, an AFP journalist said. Items like dialysis equipment have still not been allowed through.

De Mistura said that he would continue the peace talks until the middle of next week despite the walk-out by the opposition High Negotiations Commission, adding that the bloc was continuing to hold “technical” discussions.

The spark for the escalating violence came earlier this month when the rebels hit back against foreign allies of Assad, attacking south of Aleppo and catching Iranian forces there by surprise, according to Scott Lucas, professor of worldwide politics at Birmingham University in the United Kingdom.

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