UN: Syrian regime willing to halt Aleppo attacks for six weeks

- Mediator in Syrian conflict says he is under "no illusion" regarding the implementation of a freeze in Aleppo.

By Mustafa Caglayan

NEW YORK (AA) - The Syrian regime is willing to halt its attacks in Aleppo for six weeks to clear the way for implementing a local freeze, the UN mediator in the Syrian conflict said Tuesday.

Speaking to reporters following his briefing to the Security Council, Staffan de Mistura said a date had not yet been set for a suspension of hostilities but he would travel to Damascus "as soon as possible" to discuss the issue.

"Let me be frank, I have no illusions," he said. "Based on past experiences, this would be a difficult issue to be achieved ... No illusion, but a glimmer of hope."

De Mistura has been working on an action plan he announced last October which envisaged establishing a special "freeze" zone in Aleppo in which fighting would stop, leading to the delivery of humanitarian aid and the build-up of the political process at a local level.

A focal point of the ongoing civil war, Syria's most populous city and commercial center has been devastated by aerial bombardment by regime aircraft, as the city is divided between opposition forces and those loyal to the embattled President Bashar al-Assad.

De Mistura said he would seek the consent of the opposition to halt their mortar and rocket attacks in the city for six weeks.

He said he requested the Syrian government to allow a UN team to identify one district inside Aleppo as the scene of the possible freeze.

If implemented, "facts on the ground will prove if the freeze holds and can be replicated elsewhere," he said.

Syria has been gripped by almost constant fighting since the regime responded to anti-government protests in March 2011 with a violent crackdown that sparked a conflict that has spiraled into a civil war.

The conflict has claimed nearly 210,000 lives, according to the UN.

De Mistura said the emphasis would be on finding a political solution to the conflict while protecting as many civilians as possible.

"When you don't have a treatment you don't have a cure, but you have to insist in reducing at least this type of violence from heaviest weapons and engage all those who have weapons to actually follow that," he said.

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