UN envoy sees ‘glimmer of hope’ as Syria indicates willingness to ‘freeze’ Aleppo fighting

Boys play on the streets of Aleppo, capital of the north-western Aleppo Governorate, Syria. Photo: UNICEF/Romenzi

18 February 2015 – The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, sees a “glimmer of hope” for his proposed ‘freeze’ of localized hostilities in the city of Aleppo amid continuing fighting throughout the Middle Eastern country between Government forces and entrenched rebels.

Speaking to reporters following his closed-door briefing of the Security Council yesterday evening, Mr. de Mistura explained that he has “no illusions” about the difficulty of the task ahead based on his past experiences attempting to negotiate a peace. Nonetheless, he added, there is “hope” that a structured ‘freeze’ in Aleppo could alleviate the increasingly urgent conditions citizens were facing in the city.

“The Government of Syria has indicated to me its willingness to halt all aerial bombing in addition to artillery shelling for a period of six weeks all over the city of Aleppo as of a date that we will be announcing in Damascus,” he stated.

“We will engage very much with the opposition hopefully to get a response to a similar request from the UN to halt mortar and rocket attacks on the city of Aleppo for six weeks.”

Mr. de Mistura has since November been urging support for a local ‘freeze’ to the conflict around Aleppo, so that the growing threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) may be fully confronted and to create an environment whereby humanitarian aid could reach the beleaguered population.

Moreover, the Special Envoy believes Aleppo provides the best example of where the conflict could be halted locally, as fighting between opposition and Government forces had ground to a stalemate amid the steady advance of ISIL militants.

According to the UN, the conflict in Syria has sparked the largest humanitarian crisis since the Second World War, with 7.6 million people displaced and 3.2 million refugees created by the conflict, as well as a further 12.2 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.

Well over 150,000 people have died in the conflict, with at least 680,000 injured. Several rounds of UN-mediated peace talks in Geneva among the parties last year ended without a settlement and the Organization has since been reiterating the need to press ahead with political negotiations to achieve the aims of the Geneva Communiqué.

Mr. de Mistura added that in light of “the latest worrisome news” of heavy fighting near Aleppo, the proposed ‘freeze’ would hopefully help protect civilians while a more durable political solution is sought.

“We shall be cautious with words. Assurances will not be enough. Facts on the ground will prove if the ‘freeze’ holds and can be replicated elsewhere,” he continued. “The purpose, frankly, is to spare as many civilian victims as possible with a political process based on the Geneva Communiqué with a pragmatic approach that can produce results.”


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UN envoy and Syrian President discuss political solution to conflict, Aleppo fighting ‘freeze’

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