UNITED NATIONS —
The U.N.'s special envoy on Syria says the government of President Bashar al-Assad has agreed to stop aerial bombing of the city of Aleppo for six weeks, as the envoy works with international partners to seek a political solution to the nearly four-year -old conflict.
Following a private meeting with the U.N. Security Council Tuesday, Staffan de Mistura told reporters that he would be returning to Damascus and hopefully Aleppo soon so the date of the suspension could be announced.
De Mistura said he would seek a similar agreement from opposition groups to suspend rocket and mortar attacks over Aleppo during the six-week period.
The special envoy said he would be sending a preparatory team to the city to plan for the so-called "freeze," which he has been trying to win support for from all parties since October.
He acknowledged that success would not be easy.
"Let's be frank. I have no illusions. Based on past experiences, this will be a difficult issue to achieve," said De Mistura.
But he said it is a duty to protect Syrian civilians while a political solution is sought.
Once the thriving commercial capital of Syria, Aleppo has been devastated during the war and is split between government and opposition control.
Veteran diplomat De Mistura said he would be "cautious in words" and that assurances would not be enough.
"Facts on the ground will prove if the freeze holds and can be replicated elsewhere," he said.
Najib Ghadbian, the U.N. representative of the Syrian National Coalition, said he is awaiting a detailed proposal from the special envoy which the opposition group would study carefully.
Syria's U.N. ambassador had no comment on the proposal after the council meeting.
Syria's civil war is poised to enter its fifth year next month. More than 200,000 civilians have been killed and millions more have become internally displaced or have fled to neighboring countries.