GENEVA, Switzerland, April 15 (UPI) — A delegation from the Syrian government arrived in Geneva on Friday to join a second round of U.N.-backed peace talks as fierce fighting continued in northern Aleppo.
The delegation, headed by Bashar al-Jaafari, the country’s permanent U.N. representative, arrived in Geneva to participate in the talks that are aimed at creating a political transition to end the five-year Syrian civil war.
At the same time, some 30,000 people left Aleppo and the surrounding areas as fighting between government forces, backed by Russian troops, and rebel fighters ramped up in a struggle to take a stretch of land between the Turkey-Syria border held by the Islamic State. The fighting threatens the cease-fire enacted about six weeks ago.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported at least 35 people, about 20 of them rebel fighters, have been killed in the past 24 hours.
The “entire Syrian-Turkish border region is on fire now,” an aid worker told The Wall Street Journal.
The international aid group Human Rights Watch said Turkey is violating early indications it would create a “safe zone” for fleeing Syrians. Instead, Turkis forces are allegedly firing on fleeing Syrian residents who are seeking protection, the Britain-based group said.
“Turkey’s closed border is forcing Syrian men, women and children to dig ditches and hide to escape the horrors of war,” Gerry Simpson, senior refugee researcher at Human Rights Watch, said. “Turkey’s attempt at creating a so-called safe zone is a terrible joke for civilians cowering underground and desperate to escape Syria.”