Talks to stop fighting in Aleppo ongoing

Despite several days of deadly attacks, US Secretary of State John Kerry says he is hopeful that he and other parties can extend a truce to the embattled Syrian city of Aleppo.
Video captured on CCTV appears to show the impact of last week's air strike on a hospital in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, which killed more than 50 people.
Syrian civil defence volunteers evacuating a man and children from a residential building following a reported air strike on the rebel-held eastern neighbourhood of Bab al-Nayrab in Aleppo last Friday. A new temporary truce was brokered by the US and
Syrian civil defence volunteers evacuating a man and children from a residential building following a reported air strike on the rebel-held eastern neighbourhood of Bab al-Nayrab in Aleppo last Friday. A new temporary truce was brokered by the US and Russia on Friday, although Aleppo was left out of that agreement.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MOSCOW • Russia said yesterday that talks were under way to agree to a freeze in fighting in Aleppo province after the United States demanded that the Syrian regime halt their bombardment there.

"Currently, active negotiations are under way to establish a 'regime of silence' in Aleppo province," Lieutenant-General Sergei Kuralenko, head of Moscow's coordination centre in Syria, was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.

He also said that a freeze in fighting in Eastern Ghouta, a suburb to the east of the capital Damascus, had been extended by another 24 hours, by the end of yesterday. A "regime of silence" was also holding in northern Latakia province, the general said, speaking from Russia's Hmeimim air base.

"We are calling on all sides interested in establishing peace in Syria to support the Russian-American initiative and not to allow a regime of silence to be disrupted."

The announcement came after Moscow said on Saturday it would not ask the Syrian regime to halt air raids on the war-ravaged city of Aleppo, as it believes they are helping to combat terrorist groups.

NEW WAVE OF AIR STRIKES

The situation has become unbearable... Everything is paralysed.

MR ABU MOHAMMED, who lives in a rebel-held area.

Earlier this week, Washington appealed to Moscow to keep the Damascus regime in check and the United States also expressed outrage over a deadly air strike on an Aleppo hospital.

Aleppo, capital of the northern province of the same name, is a key battleground and of vital strategic significance to both sides in the Syrian civil war.

A truce was called in February between President Bashar al-Assad's forces and a coalition of rebels but has since begun to break down, particularly in Aleppo.

A new temporary truce was brokered by the US and Russia on Friday, although Aleppo was left out of that agreement. However, the truce appeared to be holding in the regime stronghold of Latakia as well as Damascus and the nearby rebel bastion of Eastern Ghouta.

In the rebel-held areas of the divided city on Saturday, terrified residents fled a new wave of air strikes. "The situation has become unbearable," Mr Abu Mohammed said as he prepared to flee with his wife and children. "Everything is paralysed."

With the peace process hanging by a thread, US Secretary of State John Kerry was due to fly to Geneva yesterday for talks with UN envoy Staffan de Mistura and the Saudi and Jordanian foreign ministers.

Ahead of those meetings, Mr Kerry made calls to Mr De Mistura and the lead Syrian opposition negotiator, expressing "deep concern" about Aleppo, which has suffered some of the worst fighting in a conflict that has killed more than 270,000 people and displaced millions.

"The secretary made clear that ending the violence in Aleppo and returning ultimately to a durable, nationwide cessation is a top priority," spokesman John Kirby said.

A new round of UN-backed peace talks is set to start on May 10 in Geneva.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 02, 2016, with the headline 'Talks to stop fighting in Aleppo ongoing'. Print Edition | Subscribe