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Damascus, Moscow back UN ‘freeze’ plan: minister

November 27, 2014

The Syrian regime and key ally Russia have agreed to support a UN proposal to suspend fighting in the battered northern city of Aleppo, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said.

Muallem’s remarks, reported by state news agency SANA, followed a meeting between President Vladimir Putin and a Syrian government delegation in Sochi, Russia on Wednesday.

“The discussions… looked into the role of UN envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura. Both sides view (the envoy’s role) in exactly the same way, and support his efforts to freeze the fighting in Aleppo,” Muallem was quoted as saying.

De Mistura last month put forward an “action plan” for Syria that proposed to “freeze” fighting in local areas to allow for aid deliveries and to lay the groundwork for peace talks.

President Bashar al-Assad said earlier this month that De Mistura’s plan was “worthy of study”.

Aleppo, Syria’s devastated second city and former economic hub, is divided between the regime and rebels.

The Sochi meeting was held behind closed doors, and Moscow did not reveal the content of the discussions.

Syrian pro-regime newspaper Al-Watan said Thursday that the meeting “laid the initial vision for a political solution to the Syrian crisis that would bring together several Syrian patriotic sides.”

But it said the process would “require time to materialise” and provided no details about planned steps to end the nearly four-year war.

Earlier this year, two rounds of UN-brokered talks were held in Switzerland. Both ended without agreement.

After the Sochi meeting, Russian Foreign Minister said there would be no repeat of the so-called Geneva talks.

“If you think that a conference will be announced similar to the one that was held in… January this year with the participation of 50-odd states, thousands of journalists, bright lights, there won’t be such a conference,” Lavrov told reporters.

A former leader of the main opposition National Coalition, Moaz al-Khatib, is reported to have held talks at the Russian foreign ministry on November 7.

The opposition coalition, which has been internationally recognised but lacks influence in Syria, has voiced scepticism about prospects for progress.

Syria’s conflict began as a peaceful movement demanding Assad’s ouster but escalated into a civil war that has killed more than 195,000 people and forced half the population to flee their homes.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.