News / Middle East

    Syria Ready for Ceasefire in Aleppo

    FILE - Syrian National Coalition Chief Ahmad al-Jarba, left, listens to US Secretary of State John Kerry, right, during the start of their meeting at the US Ambassador residence in Paris, France, Monday, Jan. 13, 2014.
    FILE - Syrian National Coalition Chief Ahmad al-Jarba, left, listens to US Secretary of State John Kerry, right, during the start of their meeting at the US Ambassador residence in Paris, France, Monday, Jan. 13, 2014.
    VOA News
    Syria's government says it has given Russia a plan for a cease-fire in the country's largest city of Aleppo and an exchange of prisoners with Syrian rebels.

    Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said during his visit to Moscow Friday he had turned over the proposals in preparation for next week's peace talks with rebels.

    The move comes as Syria's main Western-backed opposition coalition is meeting in Istanbul to vote on whether to attend next week's peace talks in Geneva.

    Opposition leaders so far have refused to attend talks without a prior commitment that President Bashar al-Assad will step down.

    The Syrian National Coalition is under heavy U.S. pressure to attend the conference, which is aimed at forming a transitional government.

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has said the talks are the "best opportunity for the opposition to achieve the goals of the Syrian people and the revolution."

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry talks about Syria at the State Department in Washington, Jan. 16, 2014.U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry talks about Syria at the State Department in Washington, Jan. 16, 2014.
    x
    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry talks about Syria at the State Department in Washington, Jan. 16, 2014.
    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry talks about Syria at the State Department in Washington, Jan. 16, 2014.
    Kerry also warned the Syrian president Friday the U.S. is not out of options to pressure his government to comply with the goals set in the first Geneva conference.

    "They can bluster.  They can protest.  They can put out distortions.  The bottom line is we are going to Geneva to implement Geneva 1.  And if Assad doesn't do that, he will invoke a greater response in various ways from various people over a period of time," said Kerry.

    The Syrian government considers all rebel forces to be terrorists, and has tried to shift the focus of the proposed peace talks from forming a new government to fighting extremism.

    The fighting is raging in Syria's northwest, with the conflict spilling over into Lebanon.  Rocket fire in Lebanese border towns killed seven people on Friday.

    Speaking after a trip to a Syrian refugee camp in Iraq, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the U.N. General Assembly Friday the Syrian people need peace and depend on the U.N.'s solidarity for survival.

    He said the U.N. is "intensifying efforts" to bring the parties together in Geneva next week and is pressing for the sides to move to a transitional governing body to stop the violence.
     
    Syrian Foreign Minister Moallem confirmed Friday that Damascus will attend the January 22 conference.

    "As I already confirmed yesterday, the Syrian delegation will go to Geneva, as we believe that a peace settlement is the only way out of the conflict in Syria," said Moallem.

    Moallem also shot back at Washington, which he said was "supporting terrorist groups" in Syria's civil war.

    Kerry said Thursday the U.S. also is concerned about the rise of extremism in Syria, but insisted Damascus is to blame for the unrest that has left over 120,000 people dead.
    • Fighters from the Free Syrian Army's Saif al-Umayyad brigade prepare rockets to be launched towards forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta, Jan. 16, 2014.
    • Men ride a motorbike past buildings damaged by what activists said was shelling by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Daraya, Jan. 15, 2014.
    • Smoke rises from buildings after what activists said was shelling from forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the besieged area of Homs, Jan. 15, 2014.
    • Free Syrian Army fighters walk at the Tameko pharmaceutical factory after the FSA claimed to have taken control of the factory, in eastern al-Ghouta, near Damascus, Jan. 14, 2014.
    • A girl carries her belongings as she walks on rubble at a site hit by what activists said was an airstrike by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Arbeen, Jan. 14, 2014.
    • This SANA photo shows Syrian President Bashar al-Assad speaking to female preachers from mosques in Damascus and its countryside and educators of religious high schools and institutes in Damascus, Jan. 14, 2014.
    • Syrian refugees wait to enter Turkey on the Syrian-Turkish border in Shamm Alqrain village, Jan. 13, 2014.
    • Smoke rises from what activists said were explosive barrels thrown from helicopters on Daria outside Damascus, Jan. 12, 2014.
    • Damaged buildings are pictured in the besieged area of Homs, Jan. 12, 2014.
    • Residents inspect the damage caused by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant suicide bombers at the Tawhid Brigade and Al-Fateh brigade headquarters in Aleppo, Jan. 12, 2014.

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