In a recent phone call between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the two leaders discussed the current Turkish military’s transgressional besiegement on the Kurdish Canton of Afrin in northern Syria as well as resolving humanitarian issues in the region. A Kremlin public statement made after the discussion supported that the situation in Afrin was discussed within the context of employing UN Security Council resolution 2401. With Russia’s support, the resolution passed on February 24th. It demanded a ceasefire in Syria be maintained excluding all military or coalition based operations against the Islamic State, al-Nusra Front, and al-Qaeda.
So far the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has documented nearly 805 civilian deaths since the Russian supported Syrian/Assad regime launched an offensive operation against Damascus in February. This past week an aid convoy made up of humanitarian relief workers, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Syrian Arab Red Crescent, were stopped on its way to Ghouta by Syrian-regime loyalists according to United Nations officials. The UNHCR’s spokesman, Sajjad Malik, tweeted, “We delivered as much as we could amidst shelling. Civilians are caught in a tragic situation.” Iran and Russia have been the primary supporters of Bashar al-Assad’s recent military efforts in Syria and have even gone so far as to employ large numbers of mercenaries to protect regime assets.
The Kremlin also stated that President Erdogan conveyed his condolences over the recent crash of a Russian military transport plane in the region. The plane, an Antonov-26, crashed at a Russian controlled airfield in Latakia, all passengers were killed. The Russian ministry of defense has contested the claims that the plane was shot down. Turkish spokesman Ibrahim Kalin stated, “We expect to see a significant calming [in tensions in Eastern Ghouta region] in the next few days, as per Mr. Putin’s instructions. It will be our main topic in the phone call,” in reference to a planned future talk between the two leaders. The two leaders, including Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, are expected to hold a meeting in Istanbul on April 4th to talk about the situation in Syria.