Syrians stuck around Aleppo as evacuation deal stalls

Militants and members of their families from Madaya and Zabadani board on buses heading to Ramousseh crossing in Aleppo, Syria, on April 14, 2017, as part of the deal between the opposition and the Syrian government. (AFP / George Ourfalian)
Updated 15 April 2017
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Syrians stuck around Aleppo as evacuation deal stalls

BEIRUT, Lebanon: Thousands of Syrians were stuck in and around Aleppo on Saturday as a deal to evacuate two Shiite villages in return for Sunni rebels and their families being allowed to leave two besieged towns near Damascus stalled, a monitor and activists said.
Rebels and civilians who had left Madaya near Damascus on Friday sat outside rows of coaches in government-held Aleppo city, waiting to move onto their final destination of insurgent-held Idlib, pictures sent by a pro-opposition activist showed.
Meanwhile residents and pro-government fighters who had left the two rebel-besieged Shiite villages in Idlib province waited still in insurgent territory on Aleppo’s outskirts to cross into the city, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The British-based Observatory said the delay was because rebel fighters from another town included in the deal, Zabadani near Damascus, had not yet been granted safe passage out. (Reporting by John Davison)


Russia’s Vladimir Putin praises Erdogan’s ‘great political authority’ after re-election

Updated 12 min 50 sec ago
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Russia’s Vladimir Putin praises Erdogan’s ‘great political authority’ after re-election

  • Russian president Vladimir Putin on Monday congratulated Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on his re-election triumph in a phone call
  • Erdogan — who has dominated Turkey’s politics for the last decade and a half — on Monday won five more years in office

MOSCOW: Russian president Vladimir Putin on Monday congratulated Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on his re-election triumph in a phone call, after saying the result showed the Turkish leader’s “great political authority” and mass support.
On the call Putin and Erdogan confirmed their interest in “deepening partnership ties between the two countries,” the Kremlin said, singling out priority projects such as the TurkStream gas pipeline and Turkey’s first nuclear power plant being built by Moscow.
In a telegram earlier Monday, Putin had “stressed that the results of the vote fully speak of Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s great political authority (and) mass support of the course conducted under his leadership to solve Turkey’s pressing social and economic tasks (and) strengthen the country’s position in the international arena.”
Erdogan — who has dominated Turkey’s politics for the last decade and a half — on Monday won five more years in office with sweeping new powers after a decisive election victory while the opposition raised questions over the conduct of the polls.
Putin stressed his readiness to continue “close joint work” and dialogue with Erdogan, whose ruling party-led alliance also won an overall majority in parliament, the Kremlin said.
“This is certainly in the interests of the peoples of Russia and Turkey,” the Kremlin said in a statement, praising the “partner-like ties” between the two nations.
Putin himself extended his almost two-decade-long rule by winning a fourth Kremlin term in March at a time of high tension with the West.
Putin and Erdogan — who have both led their post-imperial states out of economic crisis but also into a new era of confrontation with the West — have forged an increasingly close alliance in recent months.
In a sign of the importance of the partnership, Putin went to Turkey during his first trip abroad after winning a historic fourth presidential mandate in March 18 polls.
Turkey and Russia are on opposite sides in Syria, with Moscow remaining the chief ally of President Bashar Assad’s regime and Ankara backing rebels seeking his ouster.
However, they have worked closely in recent months despite their differences to try to achieve a political solution in Syria.
Ankara-Moscow relations were tested by a severe crisis in November 2015 when Turkey shot down a Russian war plane over Syria, a confrontation both sides have since tried to put behind them.