Syria proposes humanitarian Aleppo ceasefire

Free Syrian Army fighters walk beside a Free Syrian Army flag painted on a wall in Aleppo January 23, 2015. (Reuters)

The Syrian regime is willing to suspend its aerial bombardment of Aleppo for six weeks to allow for a localized humanitarian ceasefire, a U.N. diplomat said Tuesday.

Staffan de Mistura, the United Nations' special envoy to Syria, announced the initiative during private meetings with the Security Council.

"The government of Syria has indicated to me its willingness to halt all aerial bombing and artillery shelling for a period of six weeks all over the city of Aleppo from a date we'll announce from Damascus," de Mistura told journalists after addressing the Security Council.

De Mistura, an Italian-Swedish diplomat, recently went to Syria and met President Bashar al-Assad.

He said he'd asked the regime to facilitate a UN mission to identify a district in Aleppo to serve as a trial area for a ceasefire.

"We'll see if the freeze holds and can be replicated," he said.

Rebel fighters who hold parts of Aleppo but have no air power would also be sought out and asked to suspend rocket and mortar fire for six weeks.

"The purpose is to spare as many civilians as possible while we try to find a political solution," the diplomat said.

De Mistura acknowledged a ceasefire would be tough to achieve, given past failures, but said there was "a glimmer of hope."

Some Security Council members, however, remain skeptical because a similar measure in Homs saw opposition forces abandon their positions only to have these seized by loyalists.

A council diplomat called that deal a "fool's bargain" that was "not a humanitarian ceasefire but a capitulation."

Meanwhile, battles in and around the Syrian city of Aleppo have killed at least 70 pro-government fighters and more than 80 insurgents after the army started an offensive there, a monitoring group said on Wednesday, according to Reuters news agency.

The Observatory's Rami Abdulrahman said casualties on the government side could be higher because 25 of its combatants were unaccounted for. Sixty-six Syrian insurgents from various groups were killed in the fighting, as well as at least 20 from Nusra Front, he said.

The city has been divided since July 2012 between loyalist fighters in the west and rebels controlling eastern sectors.

 

[With AFP and Reuters]

 

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