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U.N. Envoy Calls For 'Firing Freeze' In Aleppo, Syria

Staffan de Mistura is U.N. special envoy for the Syria crisis. (JC McIlwaine/United Nations)
Staffan de Mistura is U.N. special envoy for the Syria crisis. (JC McIlwaine/United Nations)

Staffan de Mistura, the United Nations envoy to Syria, says a “firing freeze” in the Syrian city of Aleppo could serve as a model for the rest of the country.

De Mistura told Here & Now’s Lisa Mullins that Aleppo is a symbol — it has worldwide historic and archaeological significance. In addition, it has suffered the most in the country’s civil war. And crucially, none of the rival groups in Syria’s civil war has managed to take it over.

The city is surrounded by government troops, with rebel groups inside and Islamist militant groups like ISIS and Nusra less than 20 miles away. De Mistura is proposing temporary firing freezes to allow for humanitarian aid, and negotiations to work out a joint local governance which might serve as a model for the rest of Syria.

As for ISIS and al Nusra, de Mistura says the U.S. action against the group in Kobane has served as a warning to the group not to make any move on Aleppo.

Interview Highlights: Staffan de Mistura

Why is Aleppo so important?

“It’s the last city which has not fallen, either under the bombing of the government or the attack by ISIS or by anyone else. If it falls under the government, there would be hardly any opposition, moderate opposition being based really inside a city in Syria. If it falls under ISIS, it will be one of the biggest massacres you could dream of and it would be an awful one. If it stays as it is, it won’t survive very long, It is very close to collapse.”

What exactly is a firing freeze?

“We are asking, we are suggesting, as U.N. initiative not a government initiative, not a ceasefire like was done in Homs or another place, it’s a U.N. proposal to have a freeze — stop fighting. Let’s bring humanitarian aid, let’s avoid the city to collapse.”

How is Syria responding to this idea?

“The fact that I was in Damascus three weeks ago and I went to see the President of Syria — and that I explained to him the plan and he was not in favor at the beginning, at least I thought he was not in favor because the local and national media was very much against the idea of a freeze in a place where the government is actually winning. But I think I used a sufficiently convincing argument to make him reconsider the potential position and to understand it was in the interest of himself, perhaps, but certainly of the Syrians that the city should not continue being bombarded and the war continue there. So he gave a conditional, preliminary ‘OK’ by saying we want to see the details. And probably believing that the opposition would not accept it, which is in fact one of my concerns. I hope that the opposition will understand that it is in the interest of the Syrian people in the city to freeze this conflict in Aleppo. Aleppo can become a symbol for what can be done elsewhere. People are asking for deescalation; they are tired of a war where no one is winning. Everybody’s losing but above all, the people are losing.”


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