Syria’s foreign minister has said he has handed Russia plans for a ceasefire in Aleppo, and was ready to exchange lists with rebel forces on a possible prisoner swap.
In a news conference on Friday in Moscow, Walid al-Moualem said he had handed his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, details of the ceasefire, plus plans for a prisoner exchange and the opening of humanitarian corridors in Syria.
The offer came hours before the main opposition bloc, the Syrian National Coalition, was due to decide whether it would participate in peace talks scheduled by the UN next week in Geneva.
Washington and Moscow have been trying to negotiate confidence-building measures to force the two sides to the table in Geneva. The SNC has previously demanded the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad before it commits to talks.
“Taking into the account the role of the Russian Federation in ending the bloodshed in Syria, as well as our trustworthy relations, I have handed Minister Lavrov today a plan of security measures in Aleppo,” Moualem said.
“In that regard I asked Minister Lavrov to use his contacts to implement this plan and to establish a specific time when all military actions in this area should be ceased.”
Moualem said his government was committed to ending bloodshed in the country and fighting “terrorism” – the regime term for rebels.
The meeting between Lavrov and Moualem took place less than a week before the “Geneva II” peace conference.
Dissent and disarray
The opposition coalition is due to vote on attendance later on Friday. One of its internal groups, the self-style government in exile Syrian National Council, said earlier this month that the Assad regime had not declared a strong commitment to the aims of the original Geneva talks, held last June, such as bringing in a transitional government and ending the war.
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Syria’s centrist internal opposition group, which rejects the armed rebellion against the Assad regime, said on Thursday that it would not attend the Swiss conference.
Al Jazeera’s Paul Brennan, reporting on the Syria-Russia meeting, said that Moualem’s offers put Assad’s government in the position of being part of the solution.
“Russia and Syria are trying to drive the agenda in the days before Geneva. It says ‘we are going to Geneva II’, effectively throwing down the gauntlet to the opposition to attend,” he said.
More than 120,000 people have been killed in the ongoing Syrian conflict, with hundreds of thousands more displaced because of the violence.
Fighting between al-Qaeda-linked fighters and more moderate opposition groups has added another layer of complexity to the nearly three-year conflict that rebels have been waging against the government.