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Tuesday 14th
posted by James Tweedie in World

Government forces move closer to rebel-held Palmyra

SYRIAN government troops advanced towards Palmyra yesterday where Isis philistines have destroyed more ancient monuments, Russia’s Defence Ministry said.

Drone flights over the city, which the jihadists recaptured in December nine months after being ousted by government forces, showed a central section of its famous Roman theatre laying in ruins, said Moscow.

But Syrian troops were within 12 miles of Palmyra yesterday, with Russian jets flying more than 90 sorties in the last week in support.

Meanwhile UN envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura began sending out invitations to next week’s Geneva peace talks between the government and insurgent factions abiding by the December 30 ceasefire.

The invitations were meant to go out last Wednesday, but Mr de Mistura’s office delayed sending them.

And his office said that the conference had again been delayed from Monday to Thursday.

The Syrian government offered to exchange more rebel prisoners for abducted civilians and soldiers held by militants — following a similar exchange last week that saw scores of women and children from Lattakia province return home.

An unnamed government source told national TV that the offer was made ahead of talks with insurgent leaders in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said yesterday that a US representative would be invited to that meeting along with delegations from Iran, Turkey, his government and Mr De Mistura.

The outgoing Obama government was sidelined in the December ceasefire negotiations mediated by Russia, Iran and Turkey, but Mr Lavrov has said he has higher hopes for Mr Trump’s.

But the aunt of Alan Kurdi, the Syrian refugee toddler whose drowning in the Aegean Sea in 2015 became emblematic of the refugee crisis, said: “Our country is being destroyed by outsiders” while the West looks on.

In an interview with broadcaster RT, Canadian resident Tima Kurdi said: “There are no moderate rebels in Syria,” adding that Western military aid ends up in the hands of al-Qaida and Isis terrorists.

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