December 14, 2016 / 8:37 AM / in 2 years

Turkey talking to Russia, Iran to try to keep Aleppo evacuation on track

A view shows the damage as seen from Aleppo's historic citadel, during a media tour, Syria December 13, 2016. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey is talking to Russia and Iran to try to ensure a ceasefire in Aleppo holds and civilians and rebel fighters can be evacuated, despite efforts by the Syrian government to prevent it, Turkey’s foreign minister said on Wednesday.

The ceasefire, brokered on Tuesday by Turkey and Russia, was supposed to allow the evacuation of rebel-held eastern Aleppo from dawn on Wednesday but has been delayed. Syrian government forces resumed shelling for about half an hour on Wednesday, rebel officials and witnesses told Reuters.

“There was an understanding as of yesterday, and within that was first the evacuation of civilians ... We see that the regime and other groups are trying to prevent this,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters in Ankara.

“We are continuing our meetings. We will speak with (Russian Foreign Minister Sergei) Lavrov and the Iranian foreign minister again today,” he said.

Russia’s defense ministry said that rebels in Aleppo had resumed fighting at dawn, but that Syrian government forces had repelled their attacks, Russia’s Interfax news agency reported.

A senior Turkish official told Reuters the ceasefire deal was very fragile but not broken, despite the reports of attacks in the city on Wednesday.

Cavusoglu said preparations had been completed for camps in Turkey and northern Syria planned for those fleeing Aleppo.

Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek said on Tuesday that Turkey, which is already home to around 2.7 million Syrians who have fled the country’s civil war, would set up a tent city to accommodate up to 80,000 people fleeing Aleppo.

Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Nick Tattersall

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