“Syrian regime’s government forces, with support from Russia, are planning an operation to retake Aleppo and battle a terrorist rebel offensive in the region,” the Syrian regime’s Prime Minister, Wael al Halqi, said on Sunday after a week of clashes.
“We, together with our Russian partners, are readying ourselves for an operation to liberate Aleppo and blockade all illegal armed groups which have not signed up to or are violating a ceasefire,” said Wael al Halqi in a meeting with delegation of visiting Russian lawmakers.
Statements made by Bashar al-Assad’s regime regarding preparations to take over Aleppo coincided with confirmations from Syrians against and pro-regime that the Russian air force has been engaged in the military operations in south of Aleppo since last Saturday.
For his part, Director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdulrahman, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Syrian regime along with its Iranian allies are preparing for a military battle and confirmed that the region is facing the fiercest clashes coinciding with Russian violent bombardments targeting areas where opposition forces and allies are taking over.
Moreover, sources from the Syrian opposition also told Asharq Al-Awsat that armed factions have benefited from the truce to supply themselves with arms and ammunition. He revealed that opposition fighters possessed around 20 Chinese missiles, which they bought from the International Black Market, each costing around 25 thousand dollars.
A member of the main opposition council said the last 10 days had “witnessed a serious deterioration, to the point where the ceasefire is about to collapse.” Basmah Qadamani of the High Negotiations Committee also told “Journal du Dimanche” that a US-Russian ceasefire monitoring mission was “powerless”.
“The government has resumed using barrel bombs,” Basmah Qadamani added, referring to the crude and indiscriminate weapons that observers say have killed thousands of civilians in opposition-held areas.
Politically, the U.N. Envoy to Syria, Staffan Di Mistura arrived to Damascus on Sunday, coming from Amman, in the framework of preparing for Geneva talks that will resume on Wednesday.
De Mistura has said the next round of talks needs to “be quite concrete in the direction of a political process leading to a real beginning of a political transition”.
He is scheduled to meet with Minister of Foreign Affairs of the regime, Walid Muallem and Russian Ambassador in Damascus.
On the other hand, the Syrian National Coalition’s envoy to Paris and the opposition’s spokesman, told Asharq Al-Awsat” we are not optimistic about the coming round of talks.”
He also said that there is one major request in the coalition’s agenda, which is the formation of a transitional ruling body with full powers.
In a common matter, “U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke by phone on the need for greater cooperation to strengthen the truce,” Reuters quoted Russia’s Foreign Ministry.
They also discussed efforts to fight ISIS and other terrorist organizations, agreeing to take additional measures to halt the flow of militants and weapons from abroad, the ministry said.