TURKEY

Turkey responds to Putin's statement on Eastern Ghouta

TURKEY RESPONDS TO PUTINS STATEMENT ON EASTERN GHOUTA

Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said Wednesday 700 civilians from Syria's besieged Eastern Ghouta who were supposed to come to Turkey for medical treatment were now in southern Damascus.

Speaking in Mauritania where he was asked to respond to Russian President Vladimir Putin's recent statement on the evacuation of civilians in Eastern Ghouta, Kalin said it was an issue that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had himself called for about a month ago.

"Our first demand was to bring them to Turkey, but we were informed that they were taken to the south.

"This group had set off nearly a week ago after the demand was first made by our president.

"We didn't share this specifically since they did not come to Turkey. Because we expected that they would come to Turkey. But Mr. Putin has just announced it [that they were in Damascus]."

Kalin emphasized the evacuation of civilians from Eastern Ghouta was an issue that Erdogan himself mentioned in his previous phone talks.

He added Turkey had already raised the issue nearly 10 days ago.

Kalin also said Turkey is ready to take in civilians needing medical attention.

The target of a five-year siege by Assad regime forces -- cutting it off completely from humanitarian aid, food, and medicine-Eastern Ghouta has faced intensified attacks in recent days.

Since Feb. 19, escalating hostilities have resulted in 500 deaths and some 1,500 injuries in Eastern Ghouta, with 24 health facilities impacted by shelling and airstrikes, according to UN officials.

The attacks come despite a UN Security Council resolution passed last Saturday for a 30-day cease-fire in Syria.

While the Assad regime airdrops messages telling the 400,000 people of Ghouta to leave, Russia announced a five-hour daily "humanitarian pause" to allow civilian evacuation.

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