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Syria proposes Aleppo cease-fire, prisoner swap

BEIRUT, Lebanon — The Syrian government on Friday proposed a cease-fire with rebel forces in the city of Aleppo and said it was willing to exchange detainee lists with the opposition to pave the way for a possible prisoner exchange.

The proposals, which Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said he had given to Russia, appeared to be an effort by the government to show good faith days before an international peace conference is to be convened in Switzerland aimed at ending Syria's civil war.

It remains unclear who will attend the conference, set to open Wednesday in Geneva. While the Syrian government has accepted the invitation, the opposition has not. Many of the government's enemies have deep reservations about the conference and the opposition's exile leadership, the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, was meeting in Turkey on Friday to decide whether to attend.

The United States and other Western powers have put great pressure on the coalition's leadership to attend the conference, seeing it as the best way to end a nearly 3-year-old war that has killed more than 120,000 people.

Moallem provided few details on his government's proposals. In a joint news conference in Moscow with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Moallem said Lavrov would make the contacts necessary to "establish a zero hour for a cease-fire and the cessation of military operations" in Aleppo, Syria's largest city. He also said that the Syrian government agreed "in principle" to exchange people held in Syrian prisons for those "kidnapped by armed groups" and that it was willing to trade lists.

While leaders in Syria's opposition did not respond immediately to the proposals, trust among the parties is nonexistent. The government has violated cease-fires in the past.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, right, and his Syrian counterpart Walid al-Moallem arrive for talks in Moscow on Friday, where a cease-fire in Aleppo was proposed.

Associated Press

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, right, and his Syrian counterpart Walid al-Moallem arrive for talks in Moscow on Friday, where a cease-fire in Aleppo was proposed.

Syria proposes Aleppo cease-fire, prisoner swap 01/17/14 [Last modified: Saturday, January 18, 2014 12:10am]
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