U.N. envoy to meet Syria rebels over Aleppo ceasefire

United Nations (U.N.) Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura speaks during a news conference in Damascus, November 11, 2014.

United Nations (U.N.) Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura speaks during a news conference in Damascus, November 11, 2014.

The U.N.’s envoy to Syria will meet in Turkey with rebel leaders from Aleppo to discuss a possible freeze in fighting in the war-torn city, his spokeswoman said on Sunday.

Staffan de Mistura “will travel very soon to Gaziantep (in Turkey) to discuss his plan with key rebel groups from Aleppo”, Juliette Touma told AFP.

She did not specify when exactly the talks would take place.

De Mistura has been pushing efforts for ceasefires in limited areas of Syria to lay the groundwork for peace talks to resolve the country’s devastating civil war.

Speaking to AFP from Turkey, rebel leader Sobhi al-Rifai said: “We are ready for a meeting and for dialogue with anyone to discuss the Syrian issue.”

But Rifai, who is part of major rebel umbrella organisation the Revolutionary Command Council, did not confirm whether his group or any other faction would meet the UN envoy.

Rebels in Aleppo city also do not include among their ranks any jihadists from the Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front, or from the Islamic State group.

De Mistura announced his plan to press for what he called a “freeze” in fighting in late October, after years of failed efforts to negotiate an end to the war.

President Bashar al-Assad has previously said he is willing to discuss the plan and Aleppo, which has been divided into rebel- and regime-held territory since July 2012, has been cited as a possible starting point.

Ahead of the talks in Gaziantep, De Mistura was in Istanbul on Sunday met with the leader of the main opposition National Coalition, Hadi al-Bahra, according to the envoy’s spokeswoman.

 
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