A cessation of hostilities across Syria is vital to avoid another deadly battle like the one in Aleppo and get the peace process back on track, the United Nations Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura said on Thursday. At least 35,000 people, both civilians and fighters, have been evacuated from east Aleppo in a week-long operation, the latest UN figures show. “Many of them have gone to Idlib, which could be in theory the next Aleppo,” de Mistura told journalists in Geneva.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on Thursday regaining full control of the northern city of Aleppo was a victory for his Russian and Iranian allies as much as his own country. Russia, Iran and Turkey said on Wednesday they were ready to help broker a Syrian peace deal, after the three countries held talks in Moscow on Tuesday and adopted a declaration which set out the principles any agreement should adhere to.
De Mistura praised the agreement between Turkey and Russia that paved the way for the evacuation and welcomed the joint initiative by the three regional powers for talks in the Kazakh capital of Astana, ahead of UN peace talks he has convened in Geneva from February 8. “That is why we have been welcoming the Astana initiative. We will welcome any other initiative in that direction so we can wrap it up as we always hoped with some type of totally inclusive international engagement,” he said. “The priority remains the cessation of hostilities,” he said.