Syrian army breaks IS siege of key military air base in Aleppo
US-Russia communication improves in Syria: general
KWEYRIS, Syria, Nov 11, (Agencies): Syria’s army broke a more than year-long jihadist siege of a military air base in the country’s north Tuesday, scoring its first major breakthrough since Russia’s air campaign began.
Troops, backed by pro-government militia, broke through the Islamic State (IS) group’s siege of the Kweyris military airport in northern Aleppo province, a photographer working with AFP said.
A group of soldiers penetrated IS lines west of the airport and reached government troops inside the base, firing into the air in celebration.
Experts said the base could be used by Russian planes in their air war against rebels fighting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, aiding their efforts to re-take Syria’s second city of Aleppo.
Russia launched air strikes in Syria in support of Assad at the end of September, but the regime has still struggled to advance against opposition forces and securing Kweyris would mark their first major victory in the Aleppo area.
But the advance came as at least 22 people were killed in one of the bloodiest mortar attacks on the regime’s coastal bastion of Latakia in the four-year conflict.
As the bloodshed continued, the United Nation’s peace envoy for Syria urged world powers to build on the “momentum” of new international talks to end the conflict, which has killed more than 250,000 people.
Meanwhile, US and Russian military officials talk twice daily about air operations in Syria, as the two powers conduct separate bombing campaigns in the battered nation, a top US general said.
Four-star Air Force General Herbert Carlisle outlined how communications have vastly improved since the start of Russia’s bombing campaign in Syria on Sept 30.
Moscow only gave a vague, last-minute verbal notification it was about to launch air strikes, prompting an angry response from the Pentagon, which worried about US and Russian jets slamming into each other.
“They talk twice a day, there’s a hotline,” Carlisle told military reporters at a Washington event.
“Everybody is interested in safety of flight and everybody is interested in not getting into dangerous situations or miscalculations... If you look at what’s going on, it has improved since they (the Russians) came.”
In the days after Russia’s bombing campaign began, Pentagon and Moscow officials drew up a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on flight safety guidelines specifying how pilots should act if they cross paths.
“The MOU has established a safer environment and done everything we can to prevent miscalculation or an accident or safety challenge,” Carlisle said.
Turkey wants world leaders to discuss the conflicts in Syria and Iraq at a G20 summit this weekend and is ready to take “stronger steps” in the region following its general election, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday.