Share This Page

Assad proposes Aleppo cease-fire, prisoner swap

| Friday, Jan. 17, 2014, 6:33 p.m.

Syria's government on Friday proposed a cease-fire in the embattled city of Aleppo and a prisoner exchange with the opposition, a move that appeared aimed at presenting President Bashar Assad as a responsible partner less than a week before an international peace conference.

Assad's opponents were skeptical about the offer, which was put forward by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem during a visit to Moscow. A member of the main Western-backed opposition dismissed the government's overture as “last-minute maneuvering” to please Damascus' Russian allies, while a rebel commander in Aleppo described such a truce in the civil war as nearly impossible.

The opposition's Syrian National Coalition has yet to decide whether it will attend the peace talks scheduled to begin on Wednesday in the Swiss city of Montreux. Members of the coalition gathered in Istanbul to vote on the group's participation, but the start of the meeting was delayed for at least 10 hours because dozens of representatives refused to show up.

The coalition is under immense pressure from its Western and Arab sponsors to go to Geneva. Many members, however, are hesitant to sign up for a conference that has little chance of success and will burn the last shred of credibility the group has with rebels on the ground, who reject the talks.

Haitham al-Maleh, a senior member of the coalition, said it was inclined to vote in favor of participating in the talks, but the Assad regime “has to leave.”

“We are not obliged to stay there forever. If we find any deviation in the negotiations, we'll withdraw. ... We'll find a way to say ‘goodbye' since it's an issue where there can be no bargaining,” he said.

The meeting in Moscow between al-Moallem and his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, was part of a diplomatic push before the conference.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.