Russia said its war planes had joined forces with Turkish jets for the first time on Wednesday to target Islamic State group militants holding the town of al-Bab in northern Syria, evidence of increasingly close cooperation between Moscow and Ankara.
Russia and Turkey are the main organizers of a new round of Syrian peace talks due to take place in Kazakhstan on Jan. 23 and have set aside their differences over the political fate of President Bashar Assad to try to forge a wider Syria deal.
Moscow backs Assad while Ankara has diluted its demands for the Syrian leader to urgently step down as part of what some sources say is a backroom deal aimed at dividing Syria into informal zones of regional power influence.
Lieutenant-General Sergei Rudskoi, a senior Russian Defence Ministry official, said that nine Russian jets and eight Turkish warplanes had together struck targets in al-Bab, which is located around 25 miles northeast of Aleppo.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan wants Turkish-backed rebels to capture al-Bab to prevent Kurdish militias from doing so. Rudskoi said the joint mission had been conducted in agreement with the Syrian government.