Rebels in Aleppo Reject UN Envoy’s Ceasefire Proposal

March 2, 2015  

Syrian rebel forces in Aleppo on Sunday rejected UN envoy Staffan de Mistura’s plan for a freeze in fighting in the divided northern city, dealing a blow to his peace efforts.

“We refuse to meet with Mr. Staffan de Mistura if it is not on the basis of a comprehensive solution to Syria’s drama through the exit of (President) Bashar Al-Assad and his chief of staff, and the prosecution of war criminals,” a newly-formed Aleppo revolutionary commission said, according to the AFP news agency.

The political and military grouping was set up Saturday at a meeting in the Turkish border town of Kilis attended by exiled coalition chief Khaled Khoja, other opposition figures and Aleppo civil society representatives.

De Mistura’s proposal “falls short of an initiative to resolve the humanitarian crisis of our people targeted by the regime’s use of chemical weapons and barrel bombs prohibited by the international community”, it was quoted as having said.

The Italian-Swedish diplomat, who has made the Aleppo freeze the centerpiece of his mediation efforts since he was named as special envoy to Syria in July, angered the opposition last month by saying Assad was as “part of the solution” to the conflict in Syria.

De Mistura recently said that the Syrian regime is willing to suspend its aerial bombardment of Aleppo for six weeks to allow for a localized humanitarian ceasefire, part of his efforts to end the nearly four-year war in the country.

De Mistura had last year proposed to Syria the setting up of ceasefire zones to allow the distribution of humanitarian aid in Aleppo. Assad said back in November that the proposal to implement the idea in Aleppo was “worth studying,” but no progress had been reported since then.

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

Aleppo has been the target of “barrel bomb” attacks, which the regime constantly uses against rebel held areas of the city.

The city’s opposition forces on Sunday also turned down preferential treatment for their region over other areas of Syria stricken by the four-year conflict.

“Syria and its people are one and indivisible. The blood of our brothers in Daraa (in the south), in Ghouta (near Damascus), in Homs (central) and in other Syrian provinces are no less important than our blood in Aleppo,” they declared, according to AFP.

De Mistura on Saturday held talks in Damascus to try to finalize a deal to freeze fighting in the battered second city of Aleppo.

He met Foreign Minister Walid Muallem and agreed to send a delegation from his office in the capital to Aleppo on a fact-finding mission, state news agency SANA said, without giving a date.

The envoy “hopes to set in motion as soon as possible his project” to halt fighting in Aleppo for six weeks, said a member of his delegation.

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