Russia says talks to extend Syrian lull in fighting to Aleppo

Russia says talks to extend Syrian lull in fighting to Aleppo

Russia says talks to extend Syrian lull in fighting to Aleppo

AFP photo

Russia said on May 1 that talks were taking place to include Aleppo in a temporary lull in fighting declared by the Syrian army in some western parts of the country, a sign of intensified efforts to halt a surge of violence in its former commercial capital.

A senior Russian Defense Ministry official in Moscow, which supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, said that negotiations were taking place to “establish a regime of calm also in Aleppo province,” Interfax news agency reported. The official did not say who was negotiating on Aleppo. He said the lull in fighting had been extended around Damascus for another 24 hours.

This past week, Russia and the United States agreed to pressure the parties to hold their fire in the Latakia and Eastern Ghouta, Damascus regions - but Aleppo was left out of the deal.

The Syrian army said the “calm” would last for 24 hours in the capital Damascus and its suburb Eastern Ghouta and for 72 hours in rural areas around the northern city of Latakia.

Nearly 10 days of bombardments by both the government side and insurgents in the city of Aleppo has killed more than 250 people, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, confounding hopes of an end to five years of war. The city was calmer on May 1, the Observatory said, but rebel shellfire hit one area, and there were government air raids on its outskirts.

At least five people were killed in Aleppo early on April 30 in air strikes believed to have been carried out by Syrian government warplanes, the Observatory said. 

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who was due to travel to Geneva on May 1 to discuss Syria with his Jordanian and Saudi counterparts and the U.N.’s special envoy Staffan de Mistura, said efforts to revive a cessation of hostilities must include Aleppo. 

The U.S. State Department said Washington wanted Russia to put pressure on its ally Assad to stop “indiscriminate aerial attacks” in Aleppo, and which has long been split between government- and opposition-held areas of control. 

But Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said April 30 that Russia 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 jihadist groups.