Turkey: 20 busloads of people evacuated from Aleppo

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Buses are seen during an evacuation operation of rebel fighters and their families from rebel-held neighbourhoods in the embattled city of Aleppo on December 15, 2016. A convoy of ambulances and buses left rebel territory in Aleppo in the first evacuations under a deal for opposition fighters to leave the city after years of fighting. The rebel withdrawal will pave the way for President Bashar al-Assad's forces to reclaim complete control of Syria's second city, handing the regime its biggest victory in more than five years of civil war. / AFP PHOTO / George OURFALIAN

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Veysi Kaynak said on Thursday that the first 20 buses allocated for the evacuation of people from Aleppo had left the city.

Kaynak said the 20 buses have reached a safe area just outside of Aleppo under the control of the Free Syrian Army (FSA). The Turkish deputy prime minister also said that some 35 of the people are injured, with some suffering from severe burns. Kaynak added that Turkey could establish a camp for the evacuees from Aleppo.

On Wednesday Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed during a phone call to push for the evacuation of civilians from Aleppo, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

Presidential sources told Anadolu that the leaders agreed on the complete realization of the partial cease-fire agreement reached by Turkey and Russia late on Tuesday.
“The leaders underlined the need for preventing the violation of the agreement.

The leaders also confirmed a decision for joint efforts for an immediate start of the evacuation of civilians and opposition by means of safe corridors,” reported Anadolu.

A deal that Moscow and Ankara reached on securing a cease-fire and the evacuation of civilians and rebels from Aleppo on Tuesday failed to be put into practice as Syrian forces struck the last rebel-held part of the city on Wednesday.

According to the report Erdoğan also underlined that Turkey is ready to take all measures for humanitarian aid and the temporary housing of civilians if safe corridors are opened for the evacuation of Aleppo.

Rebel defenses in Aleppo collapsed on Monday, leading to a broad advance by the Syrian army across more than half of the remaining insurgent pocket in the city and a retreat of opposition fighters to a few districts. Turkey has been in contact with Russia about the situation in Aleppo.

Late Tuesday Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu discussed the situation in Aleppo on the phone.

Anadolu reported on Wednesday that Lavrov said cooperation with Turkey on Syria would be “more fruitful” than cooperation with the United States.

In the meantime, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Lavrov told US Secretary of State John Kerry in a phone conversation that Damascus had long been prepared to let militants exit Aleppo but that they had refused a cease-fire, Sputnik reported on Wednesday.

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