Assad mulls U.N. plan to ‘freeze’ Aleppo fighting

Assad held talks with U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura

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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said Monday he was ready to study a U.N. plan to "freeze" fighting in the northern city of Aleppo, a statement from his office said.

"President Assad has been informed by [U.N. envoy Staffan] de Mistura of the main points of his initiative," said the statement issued after the two men held talks in Damascus.


"[Assad] said it was worthy of study and that work on it is needed... in order to re-establish security in Aleppo," it added.

It is De Mistura's second visit to Syria since he was appointed peace envoy in July.

On October 30, De Mistura put forward an "action plan" for Syria that proposed to "freeze" fighting in local areas to allow for aid deliveries and to lay the groundwork for peace talks.

According to the Syrian presidency Facebook page, Assad emphasized "the importance of Aleppo", which rebels and the army have been fighting over since July 2012.

State news agency SANA, meanwhile, quoted De Mistura as saying he was determined to ensure that his mission succeeds.

The envoy had previously said Aleppo would be a "good candidate" to become a "freeze" zone.

The city has been split into rebel- and army-held areas since a major insurgent offensive began there.

Since December 2013, regime warplanes have carried out near daily air raids targeting rebel-held districts of what was once Syria's economic capital, reportedly killing mostly civilians, defying a U.N. Security Council ban on such strikes.

Waddah Abd Rabbo, editor of pro-regime Al-Watan newspaper, said Damascus supports any "plan that can save lives, but such a plan should not be accepted by one side and rejected by the other".

Abd Rabbo told AFP: "The ball is in De Mistura's court. He must convince the rebels, and above all the countries that support them."

He singled out Turkey, "which allows weapons and terrorists into Aleppo" across its border with Syria.

Since the start of the anti-Assad revolt in 2011, the regime has branded all of its opponents -- both peaceful and armed -- as "terrorists", and has blamed Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey for the violence that has engulfed the country.

De Mistura's predecessors Lakhdar Brahimi and Kofi Annan tried several times but failed to implement a ceasefire in Syria. Two rounds of talks between the regime and the exiled opposition earlier this year brought no result.

Syria's war has killed more than 195,000 people and forced upwards of half the population to flee their homes.

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