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Russia, US officials exchange views on situation in Syria’s Aleppo

4bkab67dec00d0g0md_800c450Senior Russian and US officials have held talks aimed at agreeing on a way to separate al-Qaeda-linked terrorists from other militants fighting against the Damascus government in Aleppo, in a bid to break the deadlock in the embattled Syrian city.

According to the reports, the meeting took place at the UN headquarters in the Swiss city of Geneva on Wednesday between Moscow’s delegation, comprising unidentified military experts, and that of Washington, led by US Special Envoy for Syria Michael Ratney.

An unnamed Western diplomat said that officials from other countries such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar also joined the Geneva talks. However, Iran and Syria’s warring sides were not invited to the Wednesday’s meeting, the diplomat added.

“The idea is to engage the Russians in a discussion on the issue,” the diplomat said before the discussions.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov raised the possibility of continuing the negotiations for another day, adding, “Our delegation is ready to stay there as long as necessary to achieve results.”

Making a distinction between the so-called moderate opposition that is enjoying Washington’s support and the al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat Fateh al-Sham terrorist group, formerly known as al-Nusra Front, seems to be a complicated task as the terrorists are intermingled in Aleppo.

Also on Wednesday, Russia said that it was extending an upcoming eight-hour ceasefire in Aleppo to 11 hours to allow civilians and militants to leave the city’s eastern parts.

Lieutenant-General Sergei Rudskoi, a senior Russian military official, said at a briefing at the Defense Ministry’s headquarters in Moscow that the humanitarian pause, which was to run from 0500 GMT to 1300 GMT on Thursday, has been prolonged “by three hours” until 1600 GMT.

Rudskoi also stressed that the extension came after “numerous requests” from the representatives of international aid groups.