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Sat Dec 03 04:23:29 SAST 2016

Russia, Syria halt air strikes on Aleppo: Moscow

AFP | 2016-10-18 10:47:59.0
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) listens to Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu. File photo
Image by: MAXIM SHEMETOV / REUTERS

The Russian and Syrian air forces have stopped bombing Aleppo as of 0700 GMT on Tuesday, Russia's defence minister said, in a move he said was meant to pave the way for an eight-hour truce on October 20.

"Strikes in the Aleppo region by the Russian and Syrian air forces are stopping today starting at 10:00 am," Sergei Shoigu said in a televised briefing.

"The early cessation of air strikes is necessary to introduce a 'humanitarian pause' on October 20. This guarantees the security of civilians' exit through six corridors and prepares the evacuation of the sick and injured from eastern Aleppo."

Russia's defence ministry said Monday that its forces and the Syrian regime would halt fire in Aleppo on Thursday for eight hours amid mounting criticism of the Moscow-backed assault against Syria's second city.

Shoigu on Tuesday called on countries that "have influence on armed groups in eastern Aleppo" to convince group leaders to cease hostilities and leave the city.

Shoigu said the initiative could "contribute to the success" of international military talks in Geneva on Wednesday on efforts to distance Syrian opposition fighters from jihadist group Fateh al-Sham Front, which changed its name from Al-Nusra Front after renouncing its ties to Al-Qaeda.

Russia's ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, said Monday that Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have agreed to take part in talks on distancing rebels from the Syrian jihadist group.

Russia has repeatedly demanded that the Syrian rebels break off from Fateh al-Sham Front, which the United Nations considers a terrorist group, as a condition to revive a ceasefire in Aleppo.

The brutal government offensive against rebel-held eastern Aleppo backed by Russian airpower has plunged Syria into some of the worst violence since the conflict erupted in March 2011.

The West has accused Moscow and Damascus of committing potential war crimes in their offensive on the city.

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