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Putin Seeks New Reference for “Post-Aleppo” Negotiations | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Buses are seen during an evacuation operation of rebel fighters and their families from rebel-held neighborhoods in the embattled city of Aleppo on December 15, 2016. (AFP)

Moscow, Beirut – Moscow seemed unenthusiastic, unlike its allies, to start a battle in Idlib following Aleppo. And while all parties were eager to discover what step Iranian militias and the so-called Hezbollah would take the day following the invasion of Aleppo, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin uncovered a plan to kick off a new vision.

Russia’s Putin said on Friday he and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan are working to organize a new series of Syrian peace talks between the Bashar Assad regime and the opposition. Putin suggested the talks could take place in Astana, the Kazakh capital.

“The next step is to reach an agreement on a total ceasefire across the whole of Syria,” Putin said in Tokyo. “We are conducting very active negotiations with representatives of the armed opposition, brokered by Turkey.”

The Russian president was cautious to clarify that the new talks would not overshadow similar talks brokered by the U.N. in Geneva.

“It won’t compete with the Geneva talks, but will complement them. Wherever the conflicting sides meet, in my view it is the right thing to do to try to find a political solution,” he said.

Commenting on Putin’s statements, informed sources in Moscow told Asharq Al-Awsat on Friday that currently, Russia is not thinking about a battle in Idlib, claiming that “Moscow is now interested in placing the Syrian crisis back on the political track and to lower the role of the military force.”

Putin seeks to “digest the victory of the Syrian regime forces, backed by Russia, Iran and allied militias,” the sources said, adding that Russia might currently work on convincing Turkey and Iran to joint these efforts.

According to other sources, doubts concerning the capacity of the regime and its allied militias to fight are the main reasons that pushed Moscow towards reviving the political track in Syria.

Meanwhile, head of the Syrian High Negotiations Committee Riyad Hijab said on Friday that the committee is ready to join peace talks, which Putin plans to hold. But, Hijab asserted later that the opposition is attached to the Geneva talks as a reference to any solution in Syria.

And while paramedics spoke on Friday about tragic cases in Aleppo and the breakdown of hospitals, the evacuation operations stopped for a while in the eastern part of the city, waiting for an agreement to remove injured from the two Shi’ite villages of Al-Foua and Kefraya in the Idlib province and which are both besieged by opposition fighters.

Also on Friday, Syrian regime media outlets said a young girl of nine years of age blew herself up in a police station in in the Midan neighborhood of Damascus, causing injuries.