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Political pressure mounts for action to stop Syria's civil war

media Syria's second city, Aleppo is under increasing attacks as the country's civil war stretches into its sixth year, 5 February, 2016 Reuters/Abdalrhman Ismail

World leaders are holding meetings to try to end Syria's civil war. On Thursday talks begun in Munich, Germany, as foreign ministers from the US, Russia and the Friends of Syria group met to discuss ways to end the violence. At the same time a NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels approved a naval mission in the Aegean Sea to tackle smugglers taking refugees and migrants from Turkey to Greece.

Washington has expressed its anger with Russia for supporting the govenrment Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with recent airstrikes.

Earlier this week, defense ministers from all 28 NATO countries approved a plan to enhance NATO’s presence in Central and Eastern Europe, in an effort to deter recent Russian aggression.

A large part of this effort is meant to protect Eastern and Baltic States, but the alliance is also sending Putin a warning regarding to Russia’s involvement in the Syrian conflict, and the military’s backing of the Assad regime.

According to Dr. Roderick Pitty, a professor of International Relations at the University of Western Australia who specializes in EU-Russian relations, the announcement from NATO won’t make much of a difference in Putin’s decision making.

“It’s not going to stop Russia’s involvement in Syria at all,” Pitty told RFI. “The Russian policy is clear they’re supporting the Assad dictatorship and Syria and they’re doing so quite effectively.”

Up to 50,000 Syrians have been forced to flee their homes in the past week alone, after a series of offensive air strikes hit near the city of Aleppo, aided by Russian military. Syrians have been heading towards the Turkish-Syrian border, which remains closed to refugees, creating a certain amount of chaos.

Sam Taylor, a spokesman for Doctors Without Borders currently working in Gaziantep, said providing sufficient aid to the sharp increase in number of migrants is becoming extremely difficult.

“We’re very concerned about the medical situation here,” Taylor told RFI. “Of the nine hospitals set up in the area, only five are running now.”

On Wednesday, Putin announced plans for a ceasefire in Syria beginning 1 March, however many worry about the damage that will take place in the region until then.

“One theory is of course that Russia is proposing a cease in fire in two weeks time is because they hope by that time they will have encircled Aleppo completely and perhaps drive the rebels out,” said Ole Solvang, the Deputy Director of the Emergencies Division at the NGO Human Rights Watch.

“If the conflicts continues as it has for another two weeks, there will be hundreds of civilian casualties, which is unacceptable.”

Talks will continue in Munich through Sunday.

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