MOSCOW, Russia – The Syrian government on Friday said a truce plan in the northern city of Aleppo and an exchange of prisoners was presented to Russia to pave the way for the proposed peace talks with the opposition next week.
The significant announcement was made in Moscow by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem who said his government was ready to exchange prisoners, a demand put forth by rebels.
But there was no response from President Bashar al-Assad’s opponents who have not committed to attend the talks due to start on Wednesday in the Swiss city of Montreux.
“I count on the success of this plan if all sides carry out their obligations,” Muallem told journalists with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov.
“We would like this to serve as an example to other towns.”
Lavrov said the process of destroying Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile was going ahead successfully despite some pressures.
“We have agreed todayto observe the approved approximate deadlines of the accomplishment of this task, naturally, with appropriate security measures and resolution of all logistical problems,” he said.
Aleppo is Syria’s biggest city, where government forces have been unable to dislodge rebels over the past year.
US Secretary of State John F. Kerry and Lavrov this week called on both sides in the three year old conflict to work towards a limited cease-fire, a prisoner exchange and improved access for humanitarian aid in advance of the Swiss meeting.
The US issued an appeal to Assad’s opponents to participate in the first direct talks to end a war that has killed over 100,000 people, made millions homeless and inflamed tensions across the region and beyond.
“I believe as we begin to get to Geneva, and begin to get into this process, that it will become clear there is no political solution whatsoever if Assad is not discussing a transition and if he thinks he is going to be part of that future. It is not going to happen,” Kerry said in Washington.
The Syrian National Coalition, the main opposition backed by the US, held a meeting in Istanbul Friday to decide whether it will attend the peace talks.
Moallem said Damascus was willing to exchange lists of detainees with the opposition for a possible prisoner swap. The Syrian opposition has demanded a release of all detainees.