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Syria: Russia 'seeks truce for Aleppo' after wave of deadly bombings

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By Alasdair Sandford  with Reuters
Syria: Russia 'seeks truce for Aleppo' after wave of deadly bombings

Russia says talks are taking place to include Syria’s Aleppo province in the latest temporary truce – as once again the diplomatic machine cranks into gear, shaken by a series of bombardments carried out by both sides in the conflict.

Saturday saw a ninth day of deadly bombardments in the city. A foreign-based monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said at least five people were killed in what are believed to have been government airstrikes on rebel-held districts.

Two-thirds of the estimated 250 civilian casualties – including at least 40 children – in nine days of bombing are thought to have died in government airstrikes. Rebels have also shelled government-held areas.

“At present, there is an active negotiation process taking place to establish a regime of calm also in Aleppo province,” Interfax news agency cited General Sergei Kuralenko, in charge of Russia’s ceasefire monitoring centre in Syria, as saying.

Moscow said on Saturday that it would not ask its ally Damascus to stop the bombing.

With US Secretary of State John Kerry in Geneva on Sunday for more talks, Washington has accused the Syrian regime of predominantly targetting civilians.

The Americans want a ceasefire to extend to whole country. The army’s lull in fighting, the so-called “regime of calm” covers only areas around the capital and the western Latakia province. Russia and the Syria authorities say the “calm” around Damascus has been extended for another 24 hours until the end of Monday.

But some observers believe Damascus may be getting the upper hand in Aleppo and has no interest in stopping its offensive on the country’s second city.

World powers and the United Nations have been trying to salvage a ceasefire deal brokered in February by Moscow and Washington, which applied to western Syria but excluded al Qaeda and Islamic State fighters.

As the UN tries to bang Washington and Moscow’s heads together to prevent a complete collapse of talks, on the ground aid has continued to be delivered.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says supplies have begun to enter Zabadani and Madaya, where earlier this year a government siege brought reports of starvation.

Aid trucks also entered al-Foua and Kefraya in the northwest province of Idlib – towns which are surrounded by insurgents – in a joint operation between the Red Cross, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, and the UN.