The Latest: UN agency: 84 killed near Syrian capital - InfoNews

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The Latest: UN agency: 84 killed near Syrian capital

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, Russia's President Vladimir Putin, center, and Iran's President Hassan Rouhani attend a news conference in Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2017. The presidents of Turkey and Iran have hailed their trilateral talks with Russia on Syria's future as critical for restoring peace in the war-torn nation. (Mikhail Klimentyev/Pool Photo via AP)
November 22, 2017 - 9:46 AM

BEIRUT - The Latest on Syria talks (all times local):

7:40 p.m.

The World Health Organization says Syrian health officials have reported that 84 people have been killed and another 659 injured over a four-day stretch of intensified fighting in a region near the capital, Damascus.

The U.N. health agency said the casualties occurred between Nov. 14 to Nov. 17 in clashes between rebel fighters and forces that support President Bashar Assad in the eastern Ghouta region. The area on the outskirts of Damascus has been under a government siege for more than four years.

Seventeen children and six women were among those killed.

The agency also said in a statement Wednesday that more than 200 operations were conducted in eastern Ghouta despite blockages that have prevented deliveries of humanitarian aid including life-saving medicines, medical equipment, and surgical supplies.

Elizabeth Hoff, WHO's Representative in Syria, said medical evacuations of critically-ill patients are "long overdue."

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6:25 p.m.

Turkey's president says trilateral talks with the leaders of Russia and Iran have critical importance for bringing peace to Syria.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaking after Wednesday's talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi, said they agreed to help support a full-scale political process in Syria.

Erdogan said the three leaders discussed ways to support another round of Syria peace talks set to start in Geneva later this month. He emphasized the need to deliver humanitarian aid to Syria.

Even though Russia and Iran back Syrian President Bashar Assad's government and Turkey supports his foes, the three countries have teamed up to help broker a peace settlement.

Wednesday's talks follow Assad's surprise visit to Russia Monday for talks with Putin

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6:20 p.m.

Iran's president says trilateral talks between Iran, Russia and Turkey will help stabilize Syria.

Hassan Rouhani, speaking after Wednesday's talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, hailed the talks as "very useful."

He said that the three leaders supported holding the so-called Congress of National Dialogue between Syrian factions in Sochi.

Even though Russia and Iran back Syrian President Bashar Assad's government, and Turkey supports his foes, the three countries have teamed up to try and broker a peace settlement.

Wednesday's talks followed Assad's surprise visit to Russia on Monday for talks with Putin that the Kremlin said were intended to help lay the groundwork for the trilateral meeting of Russia, Turkey and Iran.

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6 p.m.

Russian President Vladimir Putin says that trilateral talks with leaders of Turkey and Iran will help advance a peace settlement in Syria.

Putin, speaking after Wednesday's talks in Sochi with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, said that they agreed to encourage efforts to establish a dialogue between various political groups in Syria.

The trilateral meeting follows Syrian President Bashar Assad's surprise visit to Russia Monday, which the Kremlin said helped lay the groundwork for Wednesday's meeting.

Putin emphasized that Assad pledged to conduct constitutional reforms and hold new elections under U.N. supervision.

Erdogan emphasized that the three nations will help stage a meeting of Syrian groups hosted by Russia.

Turkey has for years supported the anti-Assad opposition, while Russia and Iran have backed Assad's government.

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5:15 p.m.

The presidents of Turkey and Iran have hailed their trilateral talks with Russia on Syria's future as critical for restoring peace in the war-torn nation.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday at the start of the talks in Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi that the mini-summit "has an utmost importance for fully ending the bloodshed and putting an end to the tragedy that has lasted for many years."

Iran's Hassan Rouhani noted that in less than one year since their joint peace push began, the three countries "have taken massive efforts to counter terrorism and extremism and set the ground for a political settlement of the Syrian crisis."

Even though Russia and Iran back Syrian President Bashar Assad's government and Turkey supports his foes, the three countries have teamed up to try and broker a peace settlement.

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4:20 p.m.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has opened a mini-summit on Syria's future by saying that "large-scale hostilities" against militants in Syria are drawing to an end.

The summit has brought the presidents of Turkey and Iran to the Black Sea resort. Putin's remarks at the opening of the summit on Wednesday were broadcast on Russian state television.

The summit follows a surprise visit to Russia by Syrian President Bashar Assad on Monday, also in Sochi.

Putin says that "Russia, Iran and Turkey have prevented a break-up of Syria, kept it from being overrun by international terrorists and warded off a humanitarian catastrophe."

He also expressed hope that agreements that the three countries could reach at the summit would help "strengthen the territorial integrity of Syria."

Turkey has for years supported the anti-Assad opposition while Russia and Iran has backed the government, both politically and militarily.

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2:35 p.m.

Leaders of Turkey and Iran have arrived in Russia's Sochi for the much-anticipated talks with President Vladimir Putin that are expected to focus on a political settlement for post-war Syria.

Russian news agencies reported on Wednesday afternoon that both Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had landed in the Black Sea resort.

The mini-summit of the three countries — which earlier this year helped broker a truce between Syrian government troops and the opposition in several pockets of fighting across the war-torn country — comes two days after Syrian President Bashar Assad visited Putin in Sochi.

Iran and Russia have been Assad's main backers while Turkey supports the Syrian opposition.

The Kremlin said that ahead of the meeting with Assad, Putin had assured the leaders of Turkey and Iran that Russia "will work with the Syrian leadership" to make sure that any agreements that could be reached on Wednesday between Russia, Iran and Turkey "would be viable."

It wasn't immediately clear, however, if the Kremlin put any pressure on Assad to accept whatever deal might come out of that summit.

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1:30 p.m.

The United Nations' Syria envoy says he plans to host two rounds of peace talks in Geneva next month between President Bashar Assad's government and the weakened opposition.

The talks come as Syria-friendly Russia takes an increasing diplomatic role in efforts to end the 6-1/2-year war.

Staffan de Mistura made the comments Wednesday while addressing a meeting of the main Syrian opposition groups in the Saudi capital, Riyadh. He also urged them to come together in a "strong and creative" opposition for the talks.

Alluding to the U.N.-mediated negotiations, de Mistura says: "We want to show and we want to show through you that this is the way the future of Syria can be decided."

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11:45 a.m.

The United Nations envoy for Syria has urged Syrian opposition groups at the opening of a meeting hosted in the Saudi capital to come up with a united delegation for the Geneva talks later this month.

Staffan de Mistura spoke Wednesday at the opening of the three-day meeting for the Syrian opposition in Riyadh. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said in opening remarks that the opposition meeting comes amid an international consensus to reach a resolution for the six-year conflict.

The meeting of the notoriously fragmented opposition is intended to come up with a unified vision ahead of the new round of peace talks in Geneva on Nov. 28.

Russia is also hosting a meeting expected to bring the opposition and Syrian government together in early December.

News from © The Associated Press, 2017
The Associated Press

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