Russia and US to 'discuss rebel pullout' from Aleppo

Russia and US to 'discuss rebel pullout' from Aleppo
Experts from Russia and the US will meet in the coming days to discuss a 'total withdrawal of rebel forces' from Aleppo, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has claimed.
3 min read
05 December, 2016
The discussions would be based on proposals made by John Kerry [Getty]

Russian and US experts will meet in the coming days to determine the routes and timing for a "total rebel withdrawal from eastern Aleppo", Moscow's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has claimed.

"During the Russian-American consultations the concrete route and time-frame for the withdrawal of all fighters from eastern Aleppo will be agreed upon," the Russian diplomat said.

He claimed that the talks in Geneva would likely start on Tuesday or Wednesday.

"As soon as these routes and time-frames are agreed on, a ceasefire can come into effect," Lavrov said. 

The discussions would be based on proposals made by US Secretary of State John Kerry in Rome on Friday, he said.  

Russia's top diplomat also denounced a proposed UN resolution demanding a temporary ceasefire in Aleppo, calling it a "provocative step".

The UN Security Council will on Monday vote on the resolution, drafted by Egypt, New Zealand and Spain, that calls for a truce of at least seven days.

"Taking into account all aspects and the current development of the situation, the draft resolution - coming against the backdrop of the Russian-American initiative - is, for the most part, a provocative step that undermines Russian-American efforts," Lavrov told a press conference.

Despite concessions by those who drafted the text - an early version demanded a 10-day truce - it looks likely Moscow will use its veto to torpedo the measure.

Regime forces advancing

The forces of Syrian regime leader Bashar al-Assad and their allies are continuing to advance on Aleppo's rebel-held districts, after taking control of some 60 percent of the city so far, according to the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights.

They seized the Qadi Askar neighbourhood overnight and encircled the large Shaar neighbourhood, the UK-based monitor said.

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"The regime is draining the rebels fighters of ammunition by opening many fronts at the same time," said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.

Since the start of the Syrian regime's latest offensive in eastern Aleppo on 15 November, at least 311 civilians have been killed, 42 of them children, the Observatory says.

At the same time, rebel fire has killed nearly 70 people in the city's government-held west.

Tens of thousands of East Aleppo residents have fled to other parts of the city from the fighting, which has raised widespread international concern.

International aid provisions have been exhausted and other food supplies are dwindling, meaning many residents are surviving on a single meal a day.

Losing Aleppo to regime troops would mark the biggest defeat for rebel forces in Syria's five-year civil war.

Russia has been flying air raids in Syria since September 2015, intervening at the request of Assad, Moscow's longtime ally.