Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Wednesday it was extending a moratorium on air strikes against targets inside the war-ravaged Syrian city of Aleppo until Friday evening to give rebels more time to leave its besieged eastern part.
“A decision was made to introduce a ‘humanitarian pause’ in Aleppo on November 4 from 9:00 am (0600 GMT) to 19:00,” the chief of Russia’s General Staff Valery Gerasimov said in a statement.
Since Oct. 18, Russia and its Syrian allies say they have halted air attacks in Aleppo. Western governments had alleged that the strikes had been killing civilians in large numbers, an allegation Moscow denied.
A Kremlin spokesman said on Tuesday that the moratorium was still in force, but could not be extended if rebels in the city did not halt their attacks.
The chief of Russia’s General Staff on Wednesday said the defense ministry was rolling over the moratorium until 1900 local time “to avoid senseless victims” and called on rebels to use the opportunity to leave Aleppo with their weapons using two special corridors.
It said the rebels had taken heavy losses during fighting and were unable to break out on their own.
He said eight corridors — six for civilians and two for fighters — could be used for this.
Rebels launched a major assault Friday to break the siege of Aleppo but have been met this week by fierce resistance from regime forces.
Aleppo has been hit by some of the worst violence in Syria’s five-year conflict, turning the once bustling economic hub into a divided and bombed-out city.
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Moscow seeks “honest cooperation” for a political solution in Syria.
“We hope our partners will draw (the) necessary conclusions (so that) we will all aim for honest cooperation… for a political process involving both the regime and opposition forces,” Lavrov said at the start of an official visit to Greece.
However, he insisted that Washington help enforce a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning support for extremist groups in Syria.
“When we adopted this resolution, I remember U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s words. He said: ‘Whoever wants to be part of (the political) process must sever links to terrorists’,” Lavrov said through a translator.
“Almost a year has passed and we await these words to be carried out,” he added.
Russia has accused the U.S.-led coalition of failing to rein in hardline Syrian rebels, warning that the chances of a political settlement to the crisis was now remote.
In turn, the West has accused Moscow of committing possible war crimes in Aleppo through indiscriminate bombing to support a brutal Syrian regime offensive.