Russia, US to start talks on rebel withdrawal from Aleppo – Lavrov

Russia, US to start talks on rebel withdrawal from Aleppo – Lavrov
A proposal made by US Secretary of State John Kerry to Russia about the divided Syrian city of Aleppo details the procedure for the withdrawal of rebel forces, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov revealed, adding the two countries will discuss the issue in the coming days.

During the Russian-American consultations concrete routes and timing of the withdrawal of all militants from eastern Aleppo will be discussed. Once we reach an agreement, a ceasefire will be put in place,” Lavrov said.

The Russian foreign minister added that any armed group that refuses to leave Aleppo will be treated by Russia as terrorists, adding that Moscow will support the Syrian Army’s operations against them.

The proposal by Kerry was handed over on Saturday, after he and Lavrov met in Rome. Negotiations on the plan are expected to begin on Tuesday morning, Lavrov said on Monday. He added that the beginning of the talks had been postponed by a few days at Washington’s request.

Lavrov also told journalists Monday that Russia would not support a draft resolution imposing a new ceasefire in Aleppo.

Taking into consideration the outcome of the previous pauses [in the conflict], there is absolutely no doubt that the 10-day ceasefire which backers of the draft resolution generously want to provide the militants with would surely be used for regrouping and rearming the extremists and would slow down the liberation of eastern Aleppo from them,” he said.

The draft resolution was submitted to the UN Security Council by Egypt, New Zealand and Spain, and calls for an immediate ceasefire in the city. The initial wording stated that the ceasefire should last 10 days, but the draft currently on the table has a reduced length of seven days. The document could be voted on later on Monday.

Russia “has every reason to believe” that the plan to hand over the remaining rebel territories to the Syrian Army will work and “resolve the issue of eastern Aleppo,” Lavrov said calling the draft resolution “counterproductive” and going against the solution that the US and Russia are trying to agree on for Aleppo.

Moscow has veto power at the Security Council and may stop the document from passing.

On Monday, the militants holed up in Aleppo said that they have no plans to leave the city, despite the Syrian Army’s military advances and planned US-Russia talks on total rebel withdrawal.

Any proposals for “for the exit of rebel groups would be unacceptable,” Yasser al-Youssef of the Nureddine Al-Zinki group told AFP.

Abu Abdel Rahman Al-Hamawi from the Jaysh Al-Islam group also said that the militants “would fight... until the last drop of blood.”