Turkey working to secure Syria border, says UK minister

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LONDON

U.K. Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has told the British parliament that Turkey is moving to improve security on its southern border.

Reporting to the House of Commons on the latest U.K. airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, the first such report since the approval of the action by the British parliament on Dec. 2, Hammond said Great Britain continued to work with Turkey.

Addressing a question related to the flow of foreign fighters to Syria, Hammond said that the U.K. continued to work with Turkey and other countries to build an increasingly sophisticated network to intercept people going to the war zone.

“There are clear signs on the ground that the Turks are moving now to close the border,” the foreign secretary said.

Criticism of Russia

During Hammond’s report, the first such briefing since the approval of military action in Syria by the British parliament on Dec. 2, the minister said the situation there was more complicated than in Iraq.

He also described as “unacceptable”, reports that a majority of Russian airstrikes were targeting Syrian opposition forces rather than Daesh.

“In the last two weeks, the Russians have attacked opposition forces between Homs and Aleppo and in the far north of Syria and, in doing so, have allowed Daesh to seek advantage on the ground.

“It is unacceptable that Russian action is weakening the opposition and thus giving advantage to the very Daesh forces that they claim to be engaged against,” he said.

Hammond stated that Russia’s policy in Syria was anything but clear.

“I long since gave up using the word ‘clear’ to describe anything about Russian policy. We simply do not know what Russian strategy is. We do not know what their objectives are,” the foreign secretary said.

Hammond claimed that close to 75 percent of Russian airstrikes were being conducted against people who should be part of the solution to the Syrian problem.

Regarding the International Syria Support Group meeting in New York on Friday, Hammond said that he would be there but getting an agreement for a cease-fire would be “highly challenging”.

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