On Friday, the Syrian government said it presented plans to its ally Russia for a cease-fire in Aleppo, a city in the north. It also said it included plans for a prisoner exchange with rebel opposition forces prior to peace talks that begin in Switzerland next week.
The announcement came in Moscow from the foreign minister of Syria Walid Moallem. It appears to be a big development prior to the landmark peace negotiations slated to start Wednesday in Montreux.
The proposal seems to put President Bashar al-Assad’s government, whom has been fighting the opposition, at the center of the plan for a ceasefire.
John Kerry the United State Secretary of State and his counterpart from Russia Sergei Lavrov called on each side this week in the conflict to work towards a ceasefire, an exchange of prisoners and improved access in humanitarian aid prior to the meeting of next week.
The government of Syria also said on Friday it would be willing to increase its efforts to bolster humanitarian assistance, but it blamed rebel forces for firing earlier in the week on a convoy of aid destined for civilians that have been trapped in Yarmouk, the besieged district in southern Damascus.
The new proposal by the Syrian government that has been coordinated by Russia seems like an effort by the regime and its supporters internationally to be the initiative in the run up to the talks of next week that have been long anticipated and strongly endorsed by both Moscow and Washington.
The meeting in Switzerland would mark the first time government officials from Syria have met with opposition representatives that are exile based and supported by the U.S. and other allies.
The offer made by Syria was made at a news conference that consisted of the foreign minister of both Russia and Syria. It puts the onus on the opposition to now respond.
However, the opposition has been deeply divided and fragmented about the best way to proceed at what is a critical juncture of the ongoing conflict.
On Friday, the main opposition group, which is U.S. supported, known as the Syrian National Coalition was meeting at an unknown location in Istanbul and would make a decision if it was to join next week’s peace talks or not.