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Syria Offers Ceasefire in Aleppo, Denies Bombing its Own People

Syrian government says it is ready to negotiate a ceasefire agreement in Aleppo, prepares list of prisoners to be freed.
By Elad Benari, Canada
First Publish: 1/17/2014, 10:15 PM

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem
Reuters

The Syrian government is ready to negotiate a ceasefire agreement with opposition forces in the flashpoint city of Aleppo, Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said on Friday.

A list of rebel prisoners has also been drawn up in preparation for a proposed exchange, he said, according to Russia Today.

Damascus has handed Moscow a plan for a ceasefire in the city of Aleppo, Muallem announced at a news conference with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in Moscow.

“Taking into account the role of the Russian Federation in halting the bloodshed in Syria and our relationship of trust, today I have given Minister Lavrov a ceasefire plan for the city of Aleppo,” he said, according to Russia Today.

Muallem asked Lavrov to coordinate with his contacts in the Syrian opposition in order to ensure the execution of the new plan, adding that if it is successful it could be implemented in other areas of the war-torn country.

“I really hope all sides will keep to the terms of the agreement. If this happens, then we can implement this plan in other cities,” he said.

Addressing the issue of the humanitarian crisis in Syria, Muallem said the Syrian government is already working with the UN to deliver aid to “a number of regions.”

However, the success of the humanitarian program depends on rebel fighters keeping to their pledge not to open fire on humanitarian convoys, he said.

The UN estimates that over 100,000 people have died since the violence broke out three years ago.

Fighting between regime forces and rebels over Aleppo has intensified over the past several weeks, with the regime dropping “barrel bombs” on the city, killing many.

Muallim denied, however, that the Syrian Army is bombing its own citizens, saying that such allegations “do not reflect the reality of the current situation.”

He laid the blame at the feet of “terrorist organizations” that, he claimed, are being supported by international players.

“According to the constitution, the Syrian government is obligated to protect its citizens and public institutions in Syria. Terrorists and terrorist groups are responsible for these acts of destruction,” said Muallem, adding that “these groups are growing in number because of outside support from known states.”

Both foreign ministers said that opposition representation is absolutely essential for the success of the Geneva 2 talks, which are set to kick off next Monday.

The main political opposition body in exile, the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), has yet to decide whether it will attend the talks.

One of the groups in the opposition bloc, the Syrian National Council, recently reaffirmed it will not attend the talks. The group has long insisted that it refuses to negotiate until Bashar Al-Assad’s regime exits power.

The Syrian regime has repeatedly said it will not attend a the Geneva peace conference if the aim is for Assad to hand over power.

On Thursday, United States Secretary of State John Kerry made a powerful plea to the divided Syrian opposition to join landmark peace talks aimed at installing a new government.

Next week's peace conference in Switzerland was "the best opportunity for the opposition to achieve the goals of the Syrian people and the revolution," Kerry said.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)