The Latest: Putin: Syrian people must decide Assad’s fate

The Associated Press
The Associated Press

BEIRUT (AP) — The latest developments regarding the war in Syria. All times local.

9:50 p.m.

Russian President Vladimir Putin says that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s fate should be decided by the people in his country.

Putin made the statement Thursday after talks with visiting French President Francois Hollande.

Putin called the Syrian army a “natural ally” of any international coalition fighting the Islamic State group. Putin said he and Hollande agreed to coordinate their military action to avoid striking groups fighting IS.


9:40 p.m.

French President Francois Hollande says after talks in Moscow with President Vladimir Putin that Russia and France will intensify the exchange of intelligence information and coordinate their strikes against the Islamic State group.

Hollande emphasized Thursday that Syrian President Bashar Assad has no place in the country’s future. He called for forming a transitional government that would draft a new constitution and hold elections.

Putin said that Moscow and France agreed to coordinate work of their militaries and enhance information exchanges


9:20 p.m.

Turkey’s government and military leaders have said after a high level meeting, that Turkey and Russia should keep all diplomatic and military channels of communication open following tensions over Turkey’s downing of a Russian fighter jet.

In a statement released after a regular High Military Council on Thursday, the Turkish leaders also recommended that the two countries’ militaries take all measures possible to avoid new “undesired” incidents on the Turkey-Syria border.

Turkey shot down the Russian Su-24 military jet on Tuesday, insisting it had violated its airspace despite repeated warnings — a claim Russia denies. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Wednesday that Moscow has cut all military contacts with Turkey.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu presided over the bi-annual council meeting where senior government and military officials review security threats and other military matters.


7:30 p.m.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry says it has summoned the Russian ambassador in Ankara to complain about protests against Turkish missions and businesses in Russia following Turkey’s downing of a Russian jet.

A Foreign Ministry statement said Thursday that Turkish offices had come under what it called physical attacks disguised as protests.

The statement said Turkey had warned Russian authorities to urgently increase protection for the embassy and other Turkish interests.

Protesters in Moscow hurled eggs and stones at the Turkish Embassy on Wednesday, breaking windows in the compound. Police cleared the area and made some arrests shortly after the protest began.


7:20 p.m.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Cabinet has decided in the wake of the Paris attacks to send reconnaissance aircrafts, tanker planes and a warship to help in the fight against IS.

Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen told reporters Thursday that the government had also agreed to provide satellite surveillance to help France in the war against IS.

During Merkel’s visit in Paris on Wednesday, French President Francois Hollande had said it would “be a very good signal in the fight against terrorism” if Germany could do more against IS in Syria and Iraq.

Germany currently provides weapons and training for Kurds fighting against IS in Iraq.

The decision still needs parliamentary approval, but it was expected to not meet much resistance by lawmakers.


3 p.m.

Turkey’s foreign minister says he’s hopeful the downing of a Russian air force jet by Turkish warplanes this week will not harm long-standing relations between Turkey and Russia.

Mevlut Cavusoglu says Russian-Turkish relations have gone through many difficulties in the past, but that he hopes that they will improve and that “diplomacy will win.”

Cavusoglu said after talks Thursday with breakaway Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci that “we don’t want this incident to affect our relations with Russia.”

He said that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan will “meet face-to-face soon” but offered no details.


3:05 p.m.

Prime Minister David Cameron says Britain will not take military action to get rid of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Cameron told lawmakers that he wants Royal Air Force airstrikes to target the Islamic State group, and “we are not taking or proposing to take military action to achieve regime change in Syria.”

That’s a change since 2013, when Britain’s Parliament rejected a government proposal to attack Assad’s forces.

Cameron now wants lawmakers to approve airstrikes against IS militants in Syria. He is laying out his case in the House of Commons before deciding whether to call a vote.


2:50 p.m.

Syrian activists say there have been fresh airstrikes in northern Syria, near the Turkish border.

Two groups that track the war — the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committees — say the airstrikes hit the highway linking the border town of Azaz with the Bab al-Salameh border crossing with Turkey.

They had no immediate word on casualties. The Observatory says the warplanes that carried out Thursday’s airstrikes were Russian.

Similar airstrikes on Wednesday killed seven and wounded 10 people in the same area, according to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency.

The Western-backed Syrian National Coalition, the main Syrian opposition group, condemned the bombing of Azaz, saying it targeted trucks carrying aid.


2:20 p.m.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has lashed out at Russia, accusing it of using its fight against the Islamic State group in Syria as a pretext to target opposition groups in a bid to strengthen Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Without naming Russia openly, Erdogan on Thursday also challenged the country to prove its accusation that Turkey is buying oil and gas from the IS group, and called the claims “shameful.”

Erdogan said Turkey was the country leading the most serious fight against the IS group, saying it had detained thousands of militants over the past few years.

The Turkish president said Turkey had not specifically targeted Russia when it shot down the plane, saying it was “an automatic response” in line with its rules of engagement. Erdogan said: “faced with the same violation today, Turkey would give the same response.”


1:55 p.m.

British Prime Minister David Cameron says airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Syria won’t raise the risk of an attack in Britain, because the U.K. “is already in the top tier of countries” the militants are targeting.

Cameron on Thursday is trying to persuade British lawmakers to back expanding Royal Air Force strikes against IS from Iraq into Syria.

He said France and the United States want Britain to join and the country “must not shirk our responsibility for security or hand it to others.”

Cameron wants to hold a vote in Parliament on airstrikes, but said he would only do so if “there is a clear majority for action, because we will not hand a publicity coup” to IS.

He’s likely to decide after Thursday’s Commons debate whether to hold a vote next week.


1:35 p.m.

A Hezbollah TV station says a joint operation by the Lebanese militant group and Syrian security agents killed an Islamic State figure suspected of involvement in Beirut’s deadly bombing earlier this month.

AL-Manar TV says Abdul-Salam Hendawi, also known as Abu Abdo, died in an ambush in an IS-held area in Syria’s central province of Homs.

It says Hendawi was responsible for bringing into Lebanon two suicide bombers who carried out the Nov. 12 attack in southern Beirut. The attack killed 43 people and wounded more than 200.

Thursday’s report did not say when the ambush on Hendawi took place. It added that his main job was to transport suicide attackers from the northern Syrian city of Raqqa into Lebanon.

The Islamic State group did not immediately confirm Hendawi’s death.


1:25 p.m.

Russian President Vladimir Putin says Turkey still has not apologized for the downing of a Russian warplane or given assurances that “the culprits of this crime” will be punished.

Previously warm relations between the two countries have soured after Turkey on Tuesday shot down a Russian Su-24 on a bombing mission near the Syria border.

Speaking at the Kremlin on Thursday, Putin complained that he has not received an apology from Turkey nor an offer “to make up for the damages.” Russia previously insisted that its plane never violated the Turkish airspace as Turkey claimed.

He said he regretted the fact that relations between Turkey and Russia have been driven into a stalemate.


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