Syrian army regained control of the last rebel-held town in the coastal province of Latakia, Agence France-Presse reported, citing state television. The town was held by Syrian rebels since 2012 and was under control of several groups, including Syrian Turkmen and al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, AFP added.
Syria's "armed forces, in coordination with the popular defense, seized control of the town of Rabia," state TV reported, according to AFP. On Jan. 12, the Assad regime’s forces recaptured the town of Salma from rebels who controlled it since 2012.
Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the military forces surrounded Rabia leading to a successful recapture. "In the past 48 hours, regime forces surrounded the town from three sides -- the south, west, and north -- by capturing 20 villages," Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.
Abdel Rahman said senior Russian military officials were looking over the fight for Rabia, and that Russian airstrikes "played an essential role" in the fight, the news agency reported. He also said that after the recapture of Rabia, Syrian government troops were closing in on rebel supply routes through the Turkish border to the north, according to AFP.
Rabia’s regain comes ahead of Monday’s Syrian peace talks scheduled to be held in Geneva as part of the biggest international effort to resolve the country’s civil war that has left over 260,000 dead and forced millions from their homes in Syria in the five years since the war started in 2011. The U.N.-sponsored talks have been postponed after the U.S. and Russia disagreed over which parties would be involved in the peace process. Both the countries are expected to reach a deal over the deadlock, according to sources.