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Syrian rebels 'discussing evacuation' of Aleppo with US

Rebel-held zones in Aleppo are expected to fall within a matter of days [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 7 December, 2016

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Tensions continue to run high between the US and Russia over a proposal to evacuate civilians and rebel fighters from besieged eastern Aleppo.

Syrian rebels are said to be discussing the possible surrender and evacuation of forces from besieged East Aleppo with US diplomats, as regime forces to move deeper into the opposition enclave.

Secretary of State John Kerry spoke of recent discussions with rebel groups on Tuesday, stressing that their next move was entirely in their own hands.

"We're not the fighters on the ground; they are," Kerry said, "They have to make their ­choices."

He added that the latest discussion with rebel groups have been about "trying to move people out in order to save Aleppo... But until this moment, there has not been agreement on how that would happen".

Many of those resisting in Aleppo have vowed to remain in the city until the end. But regime forces have now taken around three-quarters of the territory rebels held in November with more opposition districts falling on Tuesday.

Rebel forces are now cornered in a shrinking enclave in Aleppo completely surrounded by regime forces, and facing a new push from pro-Damascus militias while bombs rain down from above.

it comes after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov delivered a chilling warning to rebel fighters in the besieged areas of Syria's second city.

"Those who refuse to leave of their own accord will be wiped out," Lavrov said. "There is no other solution."

During a meeting with NATO foreign ministers in Belgium, Kerry said that he expects to meet with Lavrov to discuss a proposal for the evacuation of rebels that was initiated on Friday.

The plan, however, has come at a time when Russia-US tensions have run into trouble over stalled Syria peace talks.

Lavrov has accused the US of revoking the evacuation proposal, which Washington strongly denies.

"Serious conversations with our partners do not work," Lavrov said. He claimed that US diplomats refused to attend another meeting about the plan.

Kerry has said that he was "not aware of any specific refusal" to attend to talks.

The US has blasted Russia for vetoing Monday's Security Council resolution that proposed a ceasefire in Aleppo to allow humanitarian relief efforts. China joined Russia in the rejecting the truce.

The move was widely seen as Russia acting to protect the Syrian regime's increasing gains in Aleppo, where Moscow has also played a key part in bombarding the city.

Damascus' brutal campaign has continued unabated this week, with regime forces having seized vast swaths of the city, which is expected to fall soon.

Defeat for Syria's opposition in Aleppo will present a huge victory for the Assad regime, which will perhaps only feed its determination to continue the war without seriously engaging in peace talks.


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