Russia ready to support UN envoy’s proposal to allow Al Nusra to exit Aleppo with arms – Lavrov
Russia is ready to urge the Syrian government to let Al-Nusra Front militants exit Aleppo with their weapons, as proposed by the UN envoy to Syria, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says.
Once the jihadists exit the war-ravaged city, Syrian government troops and the opposition will be able to form joint law-and-order bodies, Russia’s top diplomat said, as cited by RIA Novosti.
“In the first place, those who don’t leave with ‘Nusra’ should clearly separate themselves [from it], on paper, officially sign such a commitment,” Lavrov said.
“Maybe then the government law enforcers and this armed opposition will be able to form some kind of joint law-and-order bodies to ensure normal life, so that people would feel safe,” he continued.
On Thursday, the UN’s envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, warned that East Aleppo might be destroyed within two months if the military action in the city continues. He also urged Al-Nusra to leave the city, saying that he is willing to personally escort them out.
“If you [Al-Nusra] did decide to leave, in dignity with your weapons, to Idlib or anywhere you wanted to go, I personally am ready, physically ready, to accompany you,” he said.
Lavrov noted that according to the UN estimations there are between six and eight thousand militants in Aleppo.
“Among them up to half, that what Mistura said in the UN Security Council [are from] ‘Jabhat Al-Nusra,” the Russian Foreign Minister said.
If Al-Nusra exits Aleppo and moves to Idlib, where its major forces are located, Russia “will be ready to call on the Syrian Government to agree with that,” Lavrov added.
He noted that de Mistura’s proposal on Al-Nusra Front may lay ground to a respective decision by the UN Security Council (UNSC). If existing difficulties will be resolved “that exactly may become the core of the UNSC decision on how to deal with the situation in Aleppo right now.”
However any such move would be meaningless unless the moderate opposition forces separate themselves from the Al-Nusra Front jihadists.
Moscow: US did not provide proper data to separate rebels from Al-Nusra
During a press-briefing on Friday, Russia’s deputy-Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said that the US has consistently failed to separate moderate rebel forces from terrorists in Syria, noted that back in February Washington gave a “generalized scheme of concentration” of the Al-Nusra terrorists across Syria to Russia that proved to be less than helpful as the document “effectively did not allow separating moderate opposition from terrorists.”
“As a result, it was not possible to mark the borders of the areas occupied by the ‘moderate’ opposition and separate them from the radical terrorist groups. In the aftermath it has led to problems in identifying specific violators of the ceasefire,” Antonov said.
The official stressed that, from the time of the first truce deal for Syria brokered by Russia and the US back in February, Washington has only managed to persuade parts of the moderate rebels to observe ceasefires. “More than 100 groups continued military action,” Antonov went on to say.
The inability to separate moderate opposition and to exactly identify terrorist groups is core to the current deadlock in Syria and Aleppo in particular, according to the senior advisor to Gulf State Analytics in Washington, Theodore Karasik.
"I think everything fell apart because it has to do with the definition of who is a terrorist and extremist on the ground in Syria. This has been a problem from day one," Karasik told RT.
The cessation of hostilities has therefore “failed because there is no agreement on the ground on what to do,” Karasik went on to say.
Berlin wants Moscow to press Assad to end ‘atrocious’ violence
On Friday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on Russia to end what she described as “atrocious” violence in Aleppo, citing Moscow’s influence on the Syrian government. Similar calls have been made by the government spokesperson, Steffen Seibert.
“We believe that Russia and Iran in particular are obligated to use their influence on the Assad regime to halt the escalation in violence and the suffering of the civilian population,” Seibert said.
Syrian jets, backed by Russian Airforce, are targeting militants in East Aleppo after jihadists there repeatedly violated the cessation of hostilities, according to Moscow and Damascus.
On Thursday, Lavrov said that Russia wants to resolve the Aleppo deadlock via “all means available.” He also stressed that in terms of humanitarian aid deliveries Moscow “does not divide Aleppo into parts, controlled by government and militants.”
During an interview with Denmark’s TV 2 channel, Syrian President Bashar Assad said he wants to completely liberate Aleppo from militants, however in doing so “deals” and “amnesties” should play a key part.
He nevertheless stressed that the assumption that there is “moderate” opposition does not reflect the truth. Instead the Syrian leader called such forces “a myth.”