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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Syria responds positively to UN proposal to suspend fighting in Aleppo

The UN special envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura reports that Syria has responded positively to a UN proposal to suspend fighting in the city of Aleppo.


The Syrian President Bashar-al-Assad had said earlier that the UN proposal was worth studying. Speaking in Damascus yesterday, De Mistura said: "My meetings here with the government and with President Bashar al- Assad gave me the feeling that they are studying very seriously and very actively the UN proposal." There has been no response yet from rebel groups who will also be an important player in the UN "action plan" proposed by De Mistura.
 The Syrian state news agency SANA provided Assad's response to his meeting with De Mistura: "President Assad has been informed by de Mistura of the main points of his initiative. He said it was worthy of study and that work on it is needed … in order to re-establish security in Aleppo." Earlier comments on De Mistura's proposals in the Syrian press had been critical. Aleppo has been divided between rebel and government controlled areas since mid-2012. The UN plan would not only freeze fighting but would allow humanitarian aid into the city and also provide the foundation for peace talks even though the proposal itself is not a peace plan. At the same time, the government is fighting rebels, the Islamic State is attempting to take nearby areas held by rebels.
 An activist from Aleppo Mohammed al-Shafi said that if the government did agree to the UN proposal, there would be pressure from residents for rebels to agree as this would improve conditions for the residents. De Mistura also visited the city of Homs. He was expected to meet a group representing rebels from al-Waar the last part of Homs still held by the rebels.
 A ceasefire agreement was negotiated in Homs earlier this year. Being UN envoy to Syria has so far been a thankless, difficult role for any diplomat to fill. The last envoy Lakhdar Brahimini worked tirelessly to try to work out peace deals but progress was very limited.Two rounds of Geneva peace talks achieved little either. Only political groups attended the peace talks with many rebel fighting groups rejecting them.

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