ANKARA, Turkey : The Latest on the civil war in Syria (all times local):
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has discussed the Syrian crisis in a telephone call with Saudi King Salman.
The Kremlin said Friday that Putin and the king “expressed interest in settling the Syrian crisis and ensuring stability and security in the entire region of the Middle East and North Africa.” Putin also reaffirmed his invitation for the king to visit Russia at a time that would be convenient for him.
The state-run Saudi Press Agency simply said that “diplomatic relations were discussed in addition to the review of the latest developments in the region.”
Moscow and Shiite power Iran back embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad. The Sunni-ruled kingdom of Saudi Arabia has supported Assad’s foes throughout the five-year conflict and says it is ready to send ground forces into the country.
The World Food Program says it hopes aid deliveries to besieged areas of Syria were “not a one-off” convoy and will continue, as the U.N agency prepares an airdrop to reach 200,000 in a city surrounded by the Islamic State group.
WFP spokeswoman Bettina Luescher made the comments a day after the U.N. announced 114 trucks had delivered life-saving supplies over the previous 24 hours for 80,000 people in five besieged areas of Syria.
She said the WFP is preparing a “high-altitude” airdrop into the city of Deir el-Zour, whose residents are being besieged by IS fighters, in coordination with Syrian Arab Red Crescent operatives on the ground.
Luescher said Friday that “a WFP registered company” with experience in airdrops was expected to leave from as as-yet-undetermined country in the region.
An official with a predominantly Kurdish coalition in northern Syria says Turkish troops are bombing their positions in border areas and inflicting casualties among civilians.
Ahmad al-Omar of the Syria Democratic Forces said Friday that the shelling hit several areas including the town of Jandairis.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the shelling in areas of northern Syria lasted seven hours, killing two and wounding others.
The SDF has become the most effective force fighting the Islamic State group. The group recently captured large areas in northern Syria, raising concerns in Turkey.
SDF is dominated by the main Kurdish militia, known as the YPG. Turkey has blamed the YPG as well as Turkey’s own Kurdish rebels, for Wednesday’s bomb attack in Ankara that killed 28 people.
U.N. special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura says peace talks won’t resume in Geneva on Feb. 25 as he had previously hoped.
De Mistura told Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet that he cannot “realistically” get the parties in the Syrian conflict back to the table by then, “but we intend to do so soon.”
De Mistura halted the latest talks on Feb. 5 because of major differences between the two sides, exacerbated by increased aerial bombings and military action on the ground.
In an interview published late Thursday on Svenska Dagbladet’s website, he said, “we need real talks about peace, not just talks about talks. Now the Americans and Russians must sit down and agree on a concrete plan on the cessation of hostilities.”
Turkey’s state-run news agency says the Turkish military is pushing ahead with its cross-border artillery shelling campaign against U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish militia positions in Syria.
Anadolu Agency reported late on Thursday that artillery shells had “intermittently” targeted militia positions near the town of Azaz.
The report came as Turkey blamed the Syrian militia group as well as Turkey’s own Kurdish rebels for Wednesday’s bomb attack in Ankara that killed 28 people. It also called on its allies to cut off support to the militia group.
The Kurdish militia, however, has been most effective in the fight against the Islamic State group in Syria.
Ankara appears increasingly uneasy over the group’s recent gains across its border and has continued to shell the militia despite international calls for it to stop.