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Kerry Sees Hope of Extending Truce to Syria’s Aleppo | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) gestures next to United Nations Special Envoy on Syria Staffan de Mistura during a news conference in Geneva, Switzerland May 2, 2016. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday talks were closer to extending a Syrian truce to Aleppo with ‘several proposals’ being discussed.

Kerry highlighted the intensified violence divided northern city has witnessed in recent weeks, which led to torpedoing peace talks.

Kerry was in Geneva for talks with other dignitaries to try to revive the first major ceasefire of the five-year Syrian war, which was put in place in February with U.S. and Russian backing but has since all but collapsed.

Kerry met with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir and with the U.N. envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura. “We’re getting closer to a place of understanding, but we have some work to do, and that’s why we’re here,” Kerry said at the start of the meeting.

He said progress was being made toward an understanding on how to reduce the violence in Aleppo but that more work was needed.

Kerry hoped for more clarity in the next day or so on restoring the nationwide ceasefire. The United States and Russia had agreed to keep extra staff in Geneva to work on it.

“There are several proposals that are now going back to key players to sign off,” Kerry said after meeting de Mistura. We are hopeful but we are not there yet… we are going to work very hard in the next 24 hours, 48 hours to get there.”

Syria announced temporary local truces in other areas last week but has so far failed to extend the lull in fighting to Aleppo as well, where government air strikes and rebel shelling have killed hundreds of civilians in the past week, including more than 50 people in a hospital that rebels say was deliberately targeted.

The Aleppo fighting threatens to shatter the first peace talks involving the warring parties, which are due to resume at an unspecified date after breaking up in April when the opposition delegation walked out in anger.

“Both sides, the opposition and the regime, have contributed to this chaos, and we are working over the next hours intensely in order to try to restore the cessation of hostilities,” Kerry said. De Mistura said he would travel to Moscow for talks.

The civil war in Syria has killed hundreds of thousands of people, driven millions from their homes, created the world’s worst refugee crisis and provided a base for ISIS militants who have launched attacks elsewhere.

The fighting has drawn in global powers and regional states, while all diplomatic efforts to resolve it have foundered over the fate of President Bashar al-Assad, who refuses to accept opposition demands that he leave power.

The United States and Russia have taken the leading roles in the latest diplomatic initiative, which began after Moscow joined the war last year with an air campaign that tipped the balance of power in favor of Assad, its ally.

So far, Syria has announced a “regime of calm” — a temporary local truce — in the Eastern Ghouta suburb of Damascus and the countryside of northern Latakia province, from Saturday morning. The Latakia truce was for three days and the Ghouta truce, initially for 24 hours, was also extended by another 48.

Both areas have witnessed heavy fighting, but Aleppo remains the biggest prize for Assad’s forces, who are hoping to take full control of the city, Syria’s largest before the war.

A Russian military official, General Sergei Kuralenko, said talks were under way on extending the regime of calm to Aleppo.