The French, Russian and German leaders are set to meet in the German capital to discuss the Syrian crisis, as a brief truce has been introduced by Russia and Syria for the embattled Syrian city of Aleppo.
French and Russian presidents Francois Hollande and Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will meet in Berlin on Wednesday, according to Hollande’s office.
An aide to Hollande said the meeting will be aimed at “giving the... message” to the Russian president that “a durable ceasefire” and humanitarian access is needed for Aleppo.
This is while Russia, which has been conducting an aerial military campaign against extremist militants in Syria, has repeatedly voiced readiness for a ceasefire. Russia has been insisting, however, that any such lull in fighting should be accompanied with a meticulous separation of terrorists from other, less extremist militants fighting the Syrian government.
Western countries, including the US, have been reluctant to do any such separation.
Al-Nusra Front, which has recently renamed itself and claimed to have broken up with al-Qaeda, is one of the handful of terrorist groups that have mingled with almost all the other militant outfits fighting in Syria, including inside Aleppo.
The Syrian and Russian militaries have also set up humanitarian corridors around Aleppo to allow the safe exit of the civilians trapped in the city ever since a major offensive began to retake it. Damascus and Moscow say, however, that the militants in the city are preventing the civilians from leaving.
Russia and Syria also stopped their airstrikes on Aleppo on Monday some 48 hours ahead of an original 8-hour “humanitarian pause” announced by Russia for Aleppo in another gesture of goodwill.
A previous seven day ceasefire in Syria was no more extended as an airstrike by a US-led coalition targeted Syrian troops, killing over 80 of them in Dayr al-Zawr. Although the US said the airstrike was mistakenly conducted, it did lead to the advance of the Daesh terrorists with whom the Syrian soldiers killed had been fighting.
Meanwhile, Russia’s Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin has confirmed the Berlin talks, adding that Saudi, Qatari and Turkish military officials will also be taking part in the meeting.
The aim is to try “specifically to separate on the map the so-called moderate [opposition] groups and al-Nusra,” he said Tuesday.
Aleppo, Syria’s second largest city, has been divided between the government forces and foreign-backed militants since 2012. The Syrian army launched operations to reunite the government-held western part and the militant-held eastern section of Aleppo on September 22, with Russian air cover.
Syria has been gripped by foreign-sponsored militancy since March 2011.
Moscow began its airstrikes against the militants in Syria at the Damascus government’s request last September.
The US-led coalition that killed the Syrian soldiers in Dayr al-Zawr has also been purporting to hit Daesh positions in Syria since September 2014, but it is largely unknown what, if anything, the bombing campaign has accomplished. The campaign has neither a United Nations (UN) mandate nor the permission of the elected Syrian government.