BEIRUT (AP) — Turkey said Tuesday that it is pressing for ground operations in Syria, hoping for the involvement of the U.S. and other allies as a force dominated by Kurdish fighters pushed through rebel lines and captured more territory near the Turkish border.
In Damascus, meanwhile, the U.N. envoy to Syria suggested that humanitarian aid would be allowed into several besieged areas today, calling it the "duty of the government of Syria."
"Tomorrow we test this," Staffan de Mistura said after meeting with Syria's foreign minister.
The United Nations later announced that the government of President Bashar Assad had approved access to seven such areas across the country and that convoys would head out in the coming days.
De Mistura has been trying to secure aid deliveries to improve the chances of restarting peace talks before the end of February.
But those efforts have been clouded by the intense fighting north of Aleppo, where various forces backed by regional and international rivals are clashing over a crucial strip of land linking Syria's largest city to the border with Turkey.
U.S.-backed Kurdish forces, which had mainly battled the Islamic State and remained largely neutral in the civil war, are advancing in the same region, fighting rebels and other insurgents opposed to Assad in a bid to expand a nearby enclave.
A Turkish official told reporters in Istanbul that "without ground operations, it is impossible to stop the fighting in Syria," adding that Turkey has pressed the issue in recent discussions with the United States and other Western nations.
But he ruled out the possibility of Turkey undertaking unilateral action or the prospect of a joint Saudi-Turkish venture without broader consensus in the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State.
The main Kurdish militia, known as the YPG, dominates the group known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, which also includes Arab fighters. The latest advances by the SDF have alarmed Ankara, which views Syria's Kurds with suspicion.
Turkey, a NATO member, views the Kurdish fighters as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, which has waged a decades-long insurgency against Ankara and is considered a terrorist group by the United States and other Western nations.
Russia, meanwhile, denied accusations that it carried out airstrikes on a Syrian hospital supported by Doctors Without Borders that killed at least 11 people Monday.
U.S. tells Russia to 'put up or shut up' about cease-fire
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration, frustrated by Syria's ongoing violence, told Russia on Tuesday to "put up or shut up" about implementing a cease-fire in the Arab country, even as the U.S. backpedaled from an agreement for the truce to begin by Friday.
Washington and Moscow announced after at a conference in Germany last week that the cease-fire would start by Friday.
But State Department spokesman Mark Toner on Tuesday stressed only the need to "see some progress on a cessation of hostilities in the coming days." He said he couldn't "say categorically that ... there must be a cessation of hostilities" by Friday. Toner blamed Russia for the impasse.— AP