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Syrian government refuses UN truce terms for Aleppo

The Syrian government has refused the UN envoy’s latest proposal for a truce in Aleppo, calling on insurgents to withdraw.

AP | Beirut |

The Syrian government has refused the UN envoy’s latest proposal for a truce in Aleppo, calling on insurgents to withdraw and saying it would not grant autonomy to the rebel-held east in exchange for calm.
Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem on Sunday said restoring government rule was a matter of “national sovereignty,” and that Damascus would not allow the people of eastern Aleppo to be “hostages to 6,000 gunmen.” 
“We agreed on the need that terrorists should get out of east Aleppo to end the suffering of the civilians in the city,” he said.
He spoke after meeting with UN envoy Staffan de Mistura, who acknowledged a “major disagreement” with al-Moallem and said a “creative” if interim solution was required to halt the violence.
“We are only proposing that there should not be a radical dramatic change in the administration of Aleppo until there is a political solution,” he said.
The envoy warned in a recent interview with the UK newspaper The Guardian that the government was chasing a “pyrrhic victory” in Aleppo if it does not reach a political settlement with the opposition.
He warned the military’s approach would drive more moderate rebels into the ranks of the Islamic State group.
At least 172 civilians have been killed since the government renewed its assault on the besieged enclave six days ago, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The UN estimates 275,000 people are trapped inside. By Saturday, the government had damaged or destroyed every hospital in the east, according to the Syrian American Medical Society, which supports hospitals in Syria.
The government denies striking hospitals, and de Mistura said there was a “difference of opinion” about the attacks. He said he had proposed sending an observer team to inspect all the hospitals in Aleppo, but that the idea was not discussed further.
De Mistura has proposed that the Syrian government grant eastern Aleppo autonomy in exchange for peace, and called on the estimated 900 al-Qaida-linked militants in the east to depart to other rebel-held territory.
Al-Moallem also called on the militants to withdraw, and said he hoped that US President-elect Donald Trump’s incoming administration would cut off support for “terrorists” in Syria and “rein in” the states backing them, a reference to Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
President Bashar Assad said earlier this week that Trump could prove to be a “natural ally” to Damascus.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the intense air assault on eastern Aleppo over the last several days as well as the corresponding shelling of western parts of the city, in a statement released by his spokesman on Sunday.
He called on all the parties to ensure freedom of movement for civilians and allow unhindered access to humanitarian assistance.