Paris, Beirut: While U.N. Special Envoy to Syria Staffan De Mistura seeks to hold a new round of intra-Syrian talks in Geneva at end of August, French sources said that Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault was informed by his U.S. counterpart John Kerry that a team of U.S. experts was currently in Moscow to receive from the Russians a pledge that could secure a truce of 5 to 7 days in Aleppo.
The sources said talks between Washington and Moscow has reached their “final stage,” with the possibility of announcing a certain agreement in the coming days.
However, Paris was not convinced by Washington’s reassurances, saying that although the international community has pledged to achieve a political transition in Syria by August 1, France has to admit that it did not produce an effect.
France also warned that no breakthrough was possible if violence continue in the city of Aleppo, which it said, is about to witness a humanitarian disaster.
Official French sources concerned by the Syrian file told Asharq Al-Awsat that Paris was not comfortable with the mysterious Russian-U.S. agreement and Washington’s long-term plans.
In his fiery comments, Ayrault called on Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov to take measures to “urgently restore the ceasefire and to ensure humanitarian access to all areas.”
At the field level, Russian and Syrian attacks could not prevent opposition forces from continuing their advancement in several parts of West Aleppo and the southern countryside, while regime forces were seen fleeing the battlefields amid confusion among army officers.
On Sunday, opposition forces and their allies from Jaish al-Fatah launched the fiercest attack on regime forces and their allies in the city of Aleppo, with a target to lift the siege from the city’s eastern neighborhoods.
The attacks coincided with the visit of Chief of the General Staff General Ali Ayyoub to Aleppo, where he was examining military units currently blockading the city.
According to opposition sources, regime forces and their allies were obliged to flee their military positions, which created chaos among their members.
A leading opposition source in Aleppo told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The new battle pushed regime forces to divide responsibilities with their allies and to redistribute their forces on several fronts, amid high confusion.”
Also, military sources from Jaish al-Fatah Army told Asharq Al-Awsat that Assad forces and their allies “witnessed a large breakdown during the battles, particularly with the start of heavy tanks and missiles shelling.”
The sources said several regime high-ranking officers fled from Aleppo to Hama, through the Khanasser crossing.
“We were planning to break the siege imposed on Aleppo. But, now, there is a choice to control Aleppo, similar to what happened in Idlib and other provinces in the spring of 2015,” the source said, adding that the opposition has reached the Hamdaniya neighborhood in West Aleppo while battles were now happening around the Military Academy.”
Opposition sources also controlled the village of al-Shurfah in Aleppo’s southern countryside.
Meanwhile, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the violent attacks on several military positions in southern Aleppo continued between regime armed groups and their allies from Syrian and non-Syrian nationalities, and fighters from Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (previously known as the Nusra Front) and several other Islamic factions.
The SOHR described the battles as “the most violent attack ever carried out by the factions” as rebel forces attempt to break through a siege on the east of the city by regime forces.
The London-based group said the factions succeeded to control a school and several other points while fierce battles led to the killing several casualties from both sides.
Observatory Director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP that the battle in Aleppo “will be a long and difficult.”
Rami said the Syrian army is supported by a large number of Iranians and fighters from the so-called Hezbollah, in addition to the Russian warplanes.
The opposition military source in Aleppo told Asharq Al-Awsat that the battle would continue as planned. “Air assaults cannot prevent us from advancing,” he said.