**Syria: Angela Merkel ‘horrified’ by suffering under Russian airstrikes
The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, has said she is “horrified” by the suffering caused by Russian bombing in Syria as pro-government forces backed by airstrikes came closer to encircling Aleppo.
Opposition activists and state media on Monday said Syrian army troops had taken the village of Kfeen, north of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, while rebel forces have also withdrawn under bombing from three Kurdish villages.
Tens of thousands of civilians fleeing the Russian-backed advance on Aleppo remain stranded near the Turkish border, with no sign that the authorities in Ankara will respond to mounting international pressure to allow in more refugees.**
We have been, in the past few days, not just appalled but horrified by what has been caused in the way of human suffering for tens of thousands of people by bombing – bombing primarily from the Russian side,” Merkel said after a meeting with Turkey’s prime minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu. She said the two countries would push at the United Nations for all sides to stick to a resolution passed in December calling for a halt to attacks on the civilian population.
Merkel made clear that she considered Moscow’s current course of action a violation of the UN resolution since it directly targeted civilians.
The German foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, also criticised the attacks on Aleppo: “The dramatic pictures reaching us from the Syrian-Turkish border show one thing: those who think they can force a military solution to the conflict in Syrian are wrong”, he told Spiegel Online.
Merkel made clear that she considered Moscow’s current course of action a violation of the UN resolution since it directly targeted civilians.**
“It may be possible to momentarily shift the balance of power. But everyone should know that in the long run this doesn’t bring us any closer to an end of the conflict. On the the contrary.” Prolonging the military conflict only played into Isis’ hands, Steinmeier said. “This can be in no one’s interest, including Russia’s”.
Davutoğlu said nobody should expect Turkey to shoulder the refugee crisis alone, and harshly criticised the ongoing attack on Aleppo. “There are almost 30,000 Syrians waiting at our border. …] The inhumane attack on Aleppo needs to stop as soon as possible.
“Aleppo is in effect under siege,” he said. “There is great pressure on Germany with regard to the refugees in Europe. Humanity is being tested in Syria, we have to face this test together.”
State-run news agency Sana said army troops on Monday took control of Kfeen “after wiping out the last group of terrorists there”. Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV also reported Kfeen’s capture and aired live footage from the village.
Syrian rebels have also withdrawn from three villages threatened by Russian airstrikes in the northern province of Aleppo that borders Turkey, allowing Kurdish fighters to overrun them, a monitor said on Monday.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the rebels abandoned the villages of Aqlamiyah, Deir Jamal and Mareanar on Sunday at the insistence of residents who feared their homes would be bombed.