U.N. Syria envoy pitches Aleppo truce plan to rebels in Turkey

The plan, led by Staffan de Mistura, would set up local truces in so-called "freeze zones" to stop fighting and allow aid into rebel districts.

U.N. Syria envoy pitches Aleppo truce plan to rebels in Turkey

World Bulletin/News Desk

The United Nations peace envoy to Syria is holding talks with the Syrian opposition in Turkey to promote a ceasefire proposal for the northern city of Aleppo, opposition sources said on Monday.

Staffan de Mistura hopes the plan will establish truces in Aleppo, once Syria's commercial centre and second-most-populous city, and allow aid into rebel districts.

Aleppo has been split roughly in half between opposition groups in the east and government troops in the west, with the remaining civilians subjected to barrel bombing campaigns. The fighting has severely restricted access for humanitarian aid.

De Mistura met on Sunday with Hadi al-Bahra, head of the western-backed National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, in Istanbul, according to Badr Jamous, a senior member of the opposition body who was also present at the three-hour meeting.

"We are also interested in freezing war but at the moment he has no clear plan... we asked him for a guarantee that (President Bashar) al-Assad won't just direct his force elsewhere so it turns out we are just giving him a rest in Aleppo."

Monzer Akbik, another senior member of the opposition group who was briefed after the meeting, said there was a discussion over whether the plan should apply to all of Aleppo province or just the city.

He said the opposition body did not outline a final position but that any plan needed to be part of a comprehensive scheme involving a full political transition away from Assad's rule.

De Mistura was also meeting opposition fighting groups in the southeastern city of Gaziantep on Monday, according to Akbik, Jamous, other opposition sources and a senior aid worker.

RISKY 

The cease-fire initiative is risky for the disparate opposition groups. The Syrian government has stated its interest, but diplomats and analysts doubt its sincerity. They say Aleppo could face the same fate as the central city of Homs, where government forces have largely regained control.

One reason is that too much rides on the battle for Aleppo for both sides. While rebels once believed taking the city -- formerly Syria's commercial hub -- would strike a death blow to President Bashar al-Assad's government, many now fear the opposite: If Assad's forces push rebels from the city it could devastate the rebellion in the north.

In much of Aleppo, there is little left to save. Rebel districts have been devastated by months of government bombardment with "barrel bombs," explosives packed with shrapnel and nails.

De Mistura has taken a different approach to easing the suffering than his two predecessors, who quit in frustration after failing to bring the warring sides anywhere close to a deal.

The envoy has said the proposed "freeze zones" are intended to deliver something tangible to Syrians.

The Syrian government has voiced guarded support for the plan. Assad said it was "worth studying" and Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said after meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin this week that they agreed on the need to support the initiative.

Ahead of the talks in Gaziantep, De Mistura was in Istanbul on Sunday met with the leader of the main opposition National Coalition, Hadi al-Bahra, according to the envoy's spokeswoman.

Last Mod: 09 Aralık 2014, 00:04
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