Senior U.S. and Russian officials held talks on Wednesday aimed at agreeing on how to separate al Qaeda-linked militants from rebel fighters in the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo so as to pave the way for a ceasefire.
A Western diplomat said on condition of anonymity that Michael Ratney, U.S. Special Envoy for Syria, led Washington’s delegation, while Moscow sent military experts whose names were not released.
He said the team was joined by officials from regional powers such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, but not Syria’s ally Iran which was not invited.
“The Syrian warring sides themselves were not at the table.’’
The diplomat said the idea was to engage the Russians in a discussion on the issue.
He said the talks followed a meeting between the U.S. allies aimed to coordinate efforts toward a new ceasefire, after Russia unexpectedly announced it had halted air strikes on Aleppo.
The envoy said Russia favoured a UN proposal to evacuate jihadist fighters belonging to the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham group from the besieged zone of eastern Aleppo in return for a ceasefire.
He said Russia has said a planned eight-hour ceasefire on Thursday would be extended if other rebels clearly distanced themselves from the group, but it will not prolong the pause unilaterally.
The last ceasefire fell apart in September, since when Russia and Syria had undertaken a massive bombing campaign on eastern Aleppo, in which hospitals had been destroyed and hundreds of civilians killed.
Edited by: Hawa Lawal/Idahosa Asowata
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