Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has spelled out clearly the terms Russia is giving to the US and to the Jihadis in eastern Aleppo: they must all leave the city by a fixed date or be treated as terrorists.
His words could not be clearer:
“Those groups which refuse to leave eastern Aleppo will be treated as terrorists. By refusing to walk out from eastern Aleppo they will in fact go ahead with armed struggle. We will treat them accordingly, as terrorists and extremists, and support the Syrian army in its operation against such armed gangs.
We proceed from the assumption the Americans, when they put forward their initiative for letting all militants leave eastern Aleppo, were well aware what steps they and their allies will have to take to influence the militants entrenched in that party of the city.”
The only subject for discussion between the US and the Russians is therefore the timing and the route by which the Jihadis will leave. Lavrov indicated that a ceasefire proposal being debated in the UN Security that would impose a 7 day ceasefire is too long, which suggests that the Russians require all the Jihadis to quit eastern Aleppo in an even shorter period.
Readers of The Duran will know that this has been the Russian demand from the summer and was the key provision of the failed Kerry-Lavrov agreement in September. Here is how we reported it then, on 13th September 2016
“Earlier reports which circulated a few weeks ago claimed that the Russians told Kerry that they wanted all Jihadi fighters out of eastern Aleppo by mid September. It is increasingly looking as if the US-Russian agreement does indeed contain such a provision, though possibly with a more relaxed deadline.
If there ever was a plan by the hardliners in Washington to impose a ceasefire in Aleppo that would have made the city vulnerable to takeover by the Jihadis, then it has failed. Instead it appears that the existing plan is for the Jihadi fighters to be evacuated from eastern Aleppo instead, securing the government’s control over the city.
In order to save something from the wreckage it is therefore trying to save the lives of the Jihadi fighters in eastern Aleppo and to preserve them as a coherent force by agreeing face-saving terms for their withdrawal. The fact the Jihadi fighters will not appreciate the effort and will almost certainly refuse to do what the US has agreed for them is another matter.”
Had this proposal been accepted when the Russians first proposed it many lives would have been saved.
Instead, only now when the Jihadis in eastern Aleppo stand on the brink of total defeat, and with any possibility of their salvation by a Hillary Clinton administration forever gone, has the proposal been finally and unequivocally accepted by the US.
Whether the Jihadis in Aleppo will accept it is another matter. At the moment the word from them is that they will choose to die where they stand. Should that happen, given the hopelessness of their situation, it should be clear that the responsibility for any further death and suffering in Aleppo rests entirely with them
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.