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US, Russia preparing 'intelligence-sharing' deal over Syria's war-torn Aleppo Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

US, Russia preparing 'intelligence-sharing' deal over Syria's war-torn Aleppo

Rebels have been evacuating suburbs of Damascus like Moadamiyeh [AFP]

Date of publication: 3 September, 2016

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Washington and Moscow are close to concluding a deal for a two-day truce in Aleppo, Syria's second largest city ravaged by war, to allow the delivery of aid.
The United States and Russia are close to concluding a deal for a two-day truce in Aleppo, Syria's second largest city ravaged by war, to allow the delivery of aid.

The deal will see a reduction of deadly Syrian regime airstrikes, which often target civilians in the rebel-held eastern parts of the divided city.

It will also include the sharing of intelligence that will allow Russian forces to target fighters of the group formerly known as the Nusra Front, which the United States views as a terrorist group linked to al-Qaeda. Nusra recently rebranded itself as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham and ostensibly cut all ties to the global terror group.  

Diplomatic sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the deal is not set in stone, as key elements are still being discussed and critical "stakeholders", including Syrian rebel groups, are likely to have doubts.

"It's not done yet," one source told Reuters, saying US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov could announce a deal, if one is reached, as early as Sunday, though it appeared to be slipping to Monday or beyond.

The news agency, citing its sources, said the deal could include the following terms:

- Immediate humanitarian access to Aleppo via the Castello Road, which is currently controlled by Syrian regime forces;

- Regime checkpoints on the road would only be allowed to verify that UN seals on humanitarian trucks were intact, but not to inspect the cargoes or to remove their contents;

- Syrian government aircraft would be limited to "non-combat" flights in designated areas;

- If the agreement were respected, the United States could share intelligence to allow Russian forces to target the group formerly known as the Nusra Front.

The deal could be part of a renewed international push for peace in Syria, but formidable hurdles remain in place

Peace push?

The deal could be part of a renewed international push for peace in Syria, but formidable hurdles remain in place.

A series of amnesty deals have emerged over the past weeks, leading to the evacuation of rebels and civilians from besieged Damascus suburbs and a rebel-sympathetic district in the central city of Homs.

 

It was not clear if the new deal might be linked to a nationwide cessation of hostilities that the United States has been seeking to restore since it unraveled earlier this year.

Kerry and Lavrov failed to reach a breakthrough on military cooperation and a nationwide cessation of hostilities in Syria a week ago in Geneva.

The talks have been complicated since initial meetings in July by new government attacks on opposition groups and a major offensive in the southern part of the divided city of Aleppo led by opposition fighters intermingled with the Nusra Front.

Russia and Iran have backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government in its five-year conflict against opposition groups that range from Islamist extremist groups such as the Fatah al-Sham Front, formerly known as the Nusra Front, to forces purporting to support a secular, inclusive country.

The US supports what it calls the "moderate" opposition in the five-year-old war in which as many as 400,000 have died and half the country's prewar population has been uprooted.

According to Reuters, among those likely to oppose the emerging deal are opposition groups which do not wish to return to talks until there is a wider halt to the violence, and US military officials opposed to sharing sensitive information with the Russians.

The idea of sharing intelligence with Russia has caused disquiet among countries in the anti-Islamic State coalition, some of whose Arab members bitterly resent Russia’s military intervention to prop up Assad.

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