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Lavrov: Combat actions in Aleppo suspended to take civilians out of city

Syrian Armed Forces have suspended combat operations in eastern Aleppo to enable withdrawal of a column of civilians from the city, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday on the sidelines of a conference of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

"Combat actions of the Syrian Army in eastern Aleppo are suspended today, as a yet another and the biggest one so far operation to evacuate the civilians willing to leave the place is underway there," he said. "There are some 8,000 people in the column. That's a huge operation and the withdrawal route is five kilometers long.".

Sergei Lavrov added that Russia's and US' military experts and diplomats will meet in Geneva on December 10 to discuss the situation in Aleppo.

The minister said he had had a telephone conversation and two meetings with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Hamburg. "An agreement was reached to organize a meeting between military experts and diplomats in Geneva on Saturday," he said.

The United States seems to be sparing the terrorist organization Jabhat al-Nusra (outlawed in Russia), trying to take blows from it at all talks, Russian minister added.

"I have heard today that a U.S. State Department spokesman - there is a man called Toner [Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner - TASS] - said that that the Russian aerospace forces are delivering strikes mainly at the 'moderate' opposition but are sparing al-Nusra," Lavrov noted. "Mr. Toner took part in the majority of our talks with U.S. Secretary of State John State John Kerry and should be well-informed about what in fact is going on."

"As for Jabhat al-Nusra, the United States is seeking to spare it. Moreover, during all our talks, the Americans tried to word agreements in such a way that would leave al-Nusra out and deliver it from reprisals," Lavrov said. "Naturally, we cannot accept that. Al-Nusra is a terrorist organization recognizes as such by the United Nations, the United States, Russia and other countries. It sets one thinking.".

According to Lavrov, Moscow urges the UN Secretary General's special envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura to appoint a date for pan-Syrian talks without delay.

"The Riyadh group of the (Syrian) negotiations doesn't want to sit down to the conference table because the demand preliminary guarantees of Bashar al-Assad's resignation from power," Lavrov said. "Well, if these people are so whimsical, it means the date for negotiations should simply be appointed. And let those who come there attain accords."

"And those who don't come should blame no one else but themselves," he said.

[Source: Itar Tass, Hamburg, 08Dec16]

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