A Syrian army soldier rides a motorcycle in the village of Salma, in the northwestern province of Latakia on January 15, 2016. / AFP / YOUSSEF KARWASHAN
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Pro-government forces overran the last major rebel-held town in Syria's coastal Latakia province Sunday, as the United Nations prepares to host talks this week on ending the country's nearly five-year war.It is the second strategic victory for pro-government forces in Latakia in less than two weeks, after government troops seized the rebel bastion town of Salma on Jan. 12 .Rabia had been held by the opposition since 2012 and was controlled by a range of rebel groups including some made up of Syrian Turkmen, as well as Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front. Syria's government regularly refers to Jaish al-Islam and other armed opponents as "terrorists groups" with whom it will not negotiate.Staunch government ally Moscow has stood by the government's demand, saying the opposition delegation should be broadened to include other groups, like Syria's Kurds.
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