Thousands leave Aleppo as UN plans new peace talks
Thousands of traumatised Syrians left the rebel enclave of Aleppo as the UN voted to deploy observers there and said it planned new peace talks in Geneva in February.
“It is the intention of the United Nations to convene those negotiations in Geneva on 8 February 2017,” UN envoy Staffan de Mistura said after the Security Council unanimously adopted a French-drafted resolution to monitor evacuations from Aleppo, with Russia’s backing.
But in Moscow, President Vladimir Putin said after Russian ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov was shot dead by a policeman in Ankara that the killing could “disrupt” the peace process in Syria and harm Turkish-Russian ties.
Damascus denounced the “despicable” murder of Karlov, who a witness said was shot dead by a gunman who shouted “Aleppo” and “revenge”.
James Nixey, head of the Russia and Eurasia programme at think tank Chatham House, said the diplomat’s murder could affect Aleppo evacuations.
Families in Aleppo had spent hours waiting in below-freezing temperatures, sheltering from the rain in bombed-out apartment blocks and waiting desperately for news of a new wave of departures.
After an agonising delay, the operation resumed under a complex agreement that will see regime forces exert full control over Syria’s second city.
Buses transported more than 7,000 people out of the city, said Ingy Sedky, spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
She said the evacuations were expected to continue overnight.
“There are still thousands -- it’s a huge crowd, women, children,” she said.