Moscow, Beirut, Ankara-Russia’s Foreign Ministry has announced a daily three-hour ceasefire starting Thursday, to allow humanitarian convoys to enter the city of Aleppo safely.
“The daily ceasefires will be observed from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. local time starting Thursday,” General Sergei Rudskoi of the Russian military’s General Staff said during a press conference in Moscow Wednesday.
The Russian general added that all military action, air and artillery strikes would be halted for that period.
Rodskoi said Russia, together with the Syrian authorities of Bashar Assad’s regime, was ready to help all interested organizations safely deliver humanitarian aid to Aleppo’s residents.
However, Rudskoi excluded opposition-controlled areas from receiving the humanitarian aid.
Syria’s opposition had welcomed the Russian decision, but said the period of ceasefire was short and “insufficient.”
Ahmad Ramadan of the opposition Syrian National Coalition told Asharq Al-Awsat: “We welcome any form of ceasefire, but it should be accompanied with a respect to U.N. Resolution 2254 and Articles 12, 13 and 14, which stipulate the immediate halt of attack on civilians, because we believe that the Russians are mostly targeting civilians.”
Ramadan said that a three-hour ceasefire means there would be 21 hours of attacks on Syrian civilians, adding that previously announced ceasefires proved inapplicable.
Rudskoi said the question of joint control over delivery of humanitarian aid via the Castello Road was being discussed with the U.N. and the U.S.
On Wednesday, the U.N. said the three-hour daily ceasefire in Syria would not be sufficient to deliver all the needs of civilians currently trapped in the city, which has been under fierce attack.
AFP quoted U.N. chief Stephen O’Brien as saying Wednesday he was willing to consider the Russian plan, but that a 48-hour pause in fighting was needed to meet the entire humanitarian needs in the Syrian city.
In Ankara, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said his country was building a “strong mechanism” with Russia to try to find a solution in Syria, adding that a delegation, including foreign ministry, military and intelligence officials will go to Russia on Wednesday for talks.
Cavusoglu’s announcement came one day after a meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayip Erdogan with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Moscow for the first time since the countries agreed to fix their deteriorating relations caused by Turkey’s downing of a Russian plane last November.
“We share the same point of view with Russia on the ceasefire, delivering humanitarian aid to Syrians and the political solution in the country,” he said, adding that National Intelligence Organization (MIT) chief Hakan Fidan and representatives from the Foreign Ministry and Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) will arrive to St. Petersburg on Wednesday night for talks with Russian officials.
“We will lift the level of our delegation in the future to include the foreign ministers of both countries,” Cavusoglu said.
Despite the agreement between Russia and Turkey, Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said there were differences between both sides concerning the fate of the head of the Syrian regime and the mechanism for achieving the transitional political process, the ceasefire and the protection of unity of Syrian territories.
Former commander of Aleppo operations Colonel Abdul-Jabbar Akidi told Asharq Al-Awsat that the city of Aleppo is moving towards being liberated from the criminal regime. He said despite information that the regime had asked for the help of Iraqi forces and members of the so-called Hezbollah to support its forces fighting in Aleppo, these reinforcements would not be capable “to restore the collapsing morale of Assad’s troops.”