Ceasefire talk as 50,000 Syrians flee Aleppo fighting
Discussions about the possibility of a ceasefire in Syria have started hours ahead of a crucial meeting of major powers in Germany on how to end the Syrian civil war.
Late on Wednesday night, the Reuters news agency, citing an unnamed Western official, reported that Russia has proposed a ceasefire to begin on March 1.
Al Jazeera’s Gabriel Elizondo, reporting from the UN headquarters in New York, said the Russian ambassador to the UN has not confirmed the report.
“No agreement on this [ceasefire] has been reached yet. The Russian ambassador here at the UN has been talking in general terms about a ceasefire in Syria being part of the negotiations. We asked him for more details and he said he simply will not provide any more,” Elizondo said.
“A lot of the details might start to come to light in less than 24 hours in Munich, when the International Syria Support Group will be meeting to start talking about getting the Geneva talks back on track,” he added.
International powers, including Russia, the US, Saudi Arabia and Iran, will meet on Thursday in a bid to resurrect Syrian peace talks.
Britain’s UN Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said he hoped Russia would present “concrete ideas” at the Munich meeting that would lead to a ceasefire in Syria and humanitarian aid access.
At least 50,000 Syrians have fled the fighting in Aleppo, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Wednesday, adding that water supplies have been disrupted in some parts of the province.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Wednesday that at least 500 people have been killed since the Syrian government, backed by Russian air strikes, launched a major offensive from the north of Aleppo on February 1.
The Observatory said that among those killed are “89 civilians, including 23 children, 143 pro-government fighters, 274 rebels and foreign fighters”.
The Syrian government holds the west of Aleppo city while the rebels hold the east, but the situation is largely reversed in the countryside.
The UN on Tuesday urged Turkey to open the border to tens of thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing the government offensive in Aleppo, who are stranded near the Bab al-Salameh crossing.
Turkish Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, said on Wednesday during a conference in the Hague that the refugee crisis is not an issue a single country or neighbouring countries could bear, but an issue for humanity.
“I view the advice as hypocrisy given by several circles who do not move their muscle for a solution of the crisis in Syria. Unfortunately [this] includes the UN Security Council, who cannot say ‘stop’ to Russian bombardment that leads to a flow of refugees to Turkey to ‘open your doors’,” Davutoglu said.
Meanwhile, the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that the US will suffer because of its support of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD).
His remarks follow the recent dispute between the two NATO allies over the US’ description of the PYD as “a reliable partner”.
The latest diplomatic efforts to end the Syrian conflict through peace talks were suspended in Geneva earlier this month until February 25, after UN envoy Staffan de Mistura said more work was needed to make progress.
The Syrian opposition has said that it will not attend the scheduled talks unless the government ends it air strikes and lifts the sieges on cities and towns.
The peace talks are meant to develop a “road map” to end the conflict of almost five years that has resulted in more than 250,000 Syrians being killed.
The conflict has also displaced millions more and sent hundreds of thousands fleeing as refugees to Europe.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies
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