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Executive Summary for January 20th

We review and analyze the most important developments in Syria, including Turkey’s refusal to allow Kurdish groups to take part in upcoming peace talks with the Syrian government and ISIS’s release of 270 civilians in Deir Ezzor. Our goal is to keep you informed of the most significant recent events.

Published on Jan. 20, 2016 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

Turkey Says No to Kurdish Inclusion in Peace Talks

Turkey refuses to accept the inclusion of Kurdish groups among the official representation of the Syrian opposition at upcoming peace talks with the Syrian government, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Monday that Ankara sees no distinction between Kurdish militias and their political representation in Syria and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party’ (PKK) in Turkey.

The PKK is outlawed in Turkey and has been described by the European Union and the United States as a terrorist organization. Kurdish militias in Syria, known as the People’ Defense Units or YPG, have quickly become the West’s most effective ground partner in the fight against the so-called Islamic State.

“We will never accept that YPG is being seen as a legitimate power on the opposition side. We will never allow this to happen because it is a direct threat to Turkey,” Davutoglu said.

While the first round of talks between Bashar al-Assad’s government and the Syrian opposition is scheduled to begin on January 25, disagreements between global powers as to which groups will represent the opposition may cause a delay.

ISIS Releases 270 Civilians in Deir Ezzor

Islamic State (ISIS) militants Tuesday released 270 of the 400 or so civilians abducted by the extremist group over the weekend during intense battles with Syrian government forces in the city of Deir Ezzor, Reuters reports.

According to the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, despite the release of the civilians, ISIS militants went from house to house on Tuesday, rounding up another 50 men.

“Those who they see have ties with the regime will be punished and those who (do) not must undertake a religious course based on the group’s interpretation of Islam,” said Rami Abdulrahman, head of the Observatory.

The U.S. State Department condemned the violence against civilians in Deir Ezzor.

“We demand the immediate and unconditional release of any civilians who were taken captive and of all those held by ISIL,” spokesman Mark Toner said, using an alternative acronym for the extremist group.

The civilians released on Tuesday will remain in ISIS-held villages in Deir Ezzor province, an oil-rich area that connects to the group’s de facto capital of Raqqa.

Besieged Towns Receive Another Round of Aid

Aid trucks on Tuesday delivered much-needed fuel, medicine and food to four besieged towns, AFP reports.

In a joint statement released by the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC), simultaneous deliveries arrived on Monday at the towns of Fuaa and Kafraya – surrounded by rebels in Idlib province – and to the government-besieged towns of Madaya and Zabadani near Damascus.

A joint delegation of aid officials, however, was unable to enter Fuaa and Kafraya to conduct assessments of the humanitarian needs.

“The joint team had to postpone the mission to Fuaa and Kafraya upon receipt of reports from armed groups that more time was needed to finalize security arrangements in areas under their control,” the statement said.

There have been several reports of deaths due to lack of medical supplies in Fuaa and Kafraya, although the Syrian government has managed to airdrop some supplies into the towns.

Some 32 people have starved to death in Madaya over the past month.

There are about 42,000 civilians under siege in Madaya, fewer than 1,000 in Zabadani and nearly 20,000 in Fuaa and Kafraya.

According to figures from the United Nations, some 450,000 people live under siege in Syria.

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Top image: A Syrian Kurdish militia member of the YPG patrols near a Turkish army tank as Turks work to build a new Ottoman tomb in the background in Esme village in Aleppo province, Syria, Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Mursel Coban, Depo Photos)

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