U.N. pushes for cease-fire in Syria’s Aleppo

United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura addresses his first news conference at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva October 10, 2014.

United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura addresses his first news conference at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva October 10, 2014.

United Nations peace envoy Staffan de Mistura met with members of the Syrian opposition to discuss plans he had proposed earlier of “freezing” fighting in Aleppo, Syria’s second largest city, a spokeswoman said.

“The talks started today with representatives of armed and non-armed groups in Gaziantep,” in southern Turkey, Juliette Touma told Agence France-Presse.

Mistura first revealed his plan for a ceasefire in Aleppo in October, pitching it as a way for desperately-needed aid to reach the ruined former economic hub.

Syria’s government has said it would “study” the proposal.

Syrian daily Al-Watan, which is close to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, published Monday that the government wanted the ceasefire to be limited to Aleppo, while rebels want it to extend to the Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey.

Touma refused to comment on the report, saying “the plan is being discussed and we don’t know for now what the boundaries will be.”

Aleppo has been divided between regime control in the west and rebel control in the east since shortly after fighting began there in mid-2012.

Government troops have now encircled much of the rebel-controlled east of the city, threatening to cut the opposition’s remaining supply line to the north and besiege the neighborhoods under their control.

In Gaziantep, security measures were high as the meeting got underway.

The rebels are being represented by Qais Sheikh, head of the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC), a coalition of several dozen moderate and Islamist opposition groups.

“All the brothers in Aleppo have accepted Qais Sheikh as their representative,” said Sobhi al-Rifai, head of the council’s executive bureau.

“We are there for discussions and consultations, but we won’t take the decisions here,” he added.

“The decisions will be made after consulting all the members of the RCC and we will only consider what is in the interests of the revolution.”

Rifai declined to comment on whether the rebels would seek to extend the ceasefire zone.

“It’s them (the U.N.) that proposed a ceasefire. We want to discuss the situation in all of Syria,” he said.

 
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