Syria government 'interested' in freeze plan: UN envoy
AFP, Tuesday 11 Nov 2014

Syria's government has responded with "constructive interest" to a UN proposal to suspend fighting in the second city of Aleppo, UN envoy Staffan de Mistura said on Tuesday.

"My meetings here with the government and with President (Bashar al-) Assad gave me the feeling that they are studying very seriously and very actively the UN proposal," De Mistura said at a press conference in Damascus.

"The initial response by the government of Syria... was of interest and constructive interest," he added.

"They are now waiting for our contact with the other stakeholders, the other organisations, people, with whom we will be talking in order to make sure that this proposal can be moving forward."

On Monday, Assad said he was ready to study the UN plan to "freeze" fighting in Aleppo, which has been divided since a major insurgent offensive in mid-2012 between government and rebel control.

De Mistura put the so-called "action plan" forward last month to allow for aid deliveries and to lay the groundwork for peace talks, saying Aleppo would be a "good candidate" for such a freeze.

"All Syrians need a concrete example... That's why we have come to the conclusion of making a specific proposal," he said Tuesday.

He said Aleppo was chosen because of its significance as Syria's second city, once the country's industrial powerhouse, and also a place of cultural and historical significance.

"Aleppo city is not far from possible collapse and we need to do something before that happens," he added.

In recent months, Syrian government forces have advanced around the outskirts of the eastern portion of the city that is under rebel control, threatening to encircle it completely.

Inside the city, fighting has raged along the dividing line between government and rebel control, with regime aircraft regularly bombing the east, and rebels shelling the west of the city.

De Mistura stressed that the "freeze" proposal was an "action plan, not a peace plan yet."

"Certainly this is not a substitute for a political solution, but it is an incentive in that direction."

More than 195,000 people have been killed in Syria since the beginning of the conflict in March 2011, with successive attempts at internationally backed negotiations failing to yield a peace deal.