Turkey says Syrian government violated the ceasefire truce

In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian president Bashar Assad, right, meets with Alaeddin Boroujaerdi, who leads the foreign policy and national security portfolios at Iran’s top Shura Council, left, at the Syrian presidential palace, in Damascus, Syria, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2017. Assad received Boroujaerdi and called the friendly state “partners in the victory that was achieved in Aleppo,” referring to the city that pro-government forces recently wrestled back from rebels, with Iranian help. (SANA via AP)

Al-Jazeera – Turkey has accused the Syrian government of violating a fragile ceasefire in the country and said the new round of negotiations to be held in Kazakh capital Astana was at risk.

The Russian-Turkish brokered ceasefire last week has brought calm to large parts of Syria, but has been threatened by ongoing fighting in the Wadi Barada region near the capital Damascus.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Wednesday urged the Syrian government and its backers to end their “violations” of the truce, warning they were jeopardising the planned talks to be held in Astana this month.

“If we do not stop the increasing violations, the Astana process could fail. After the ceasefire, we see violations,” Cavusoglu told the state-run Anadolu news agency.

Syrian government forces backed by Lebanon’s armed Hezbollah group are fighting to recapture Wadi Barada, the main source of water to Damascus.

Cavusoglu urged Russia and Iran, which both back Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and are also helping prepare the Astana talks, to pressure Damascus and Hezbollah to stop the fighting.

Despite the call, fighting continued on the ground in Wadi Barada on Wednesday, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group, said.

It reported ongoing clashes as well as government air strikes and artillery fire in the area, but had no immediate details on casualties.

Syria’s main rebel groups said on Tuesday they have already frozen their participation in the preliminary peace talks due to what they called several “violations” by the regime of the truce that came into effect last week.

“The regime and its allies have not stopped shooting and have launched major and frequent violations, notably in the regions of Wadi Barada and Eastern Ghouta,” the groups said in a joint statement.

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