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Turkey Urges Syria Ground Operation as UN Prepares Aid Convoys

FILE - The International Committee of the Red Cross, working alongside the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) and the United Nations, shows a convoy containing food, medical items, blankets and other materials being delivered to the town of Madaya in Syria, Jan. 11, 2016

Turkey called Tuesday for a ground operation with its international allies to end the war in Syria, as the United Nations announced aid convoys are being sent to besieged towns.

"So far, I understand that the government of Syria has approved access to seven besieged areas," said Vanessa Huguenin, spokeswoman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

In Damascus, U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura announced that aid convoys would be sent Wednesday to test the resolve of warring parties to allow in humanitarian supplies.

"It is clear it is the duty of the government of Syria to want to reach every Syrian person wherever they are and allow the U.N. to bring humanitarian aid, particularly now after [such a] long time," he told journalists after meeting Foreign Minister Walid Muallem.

Meanwhile, a Turkish official told reporters in Istanbul that his country was pushing for ground operations in Syria, hoping for the involvement of the U.S. and other allies against the Islamic State group.

"Without ground operations, it is impossible to stop the fighting in Syria," the official said, adding that Turkey has pressed the issue in recent discussions with the U.S. and other Western nations.

But he ruled out the possibility of Turkey undertaking unilateral action or the prospect of a joint Saudi-Turkish venture without broader consensus in the U.S.-led coalition against IS. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak publicly on the issue.

In Lebanon, the leader of Hezbollah said Turkey and Saudi Arabia were using the fight against IS as a "pretext" to launch a ground operation in Syria.

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