The French foreign minister has condemned Syrian government air raids on the beseiged eastern part of Syria’s Aleppo and called for the revival of talks aimed at ending the war.
Jean-Marc Ayrault’s comments to Al Jazeera came after he met representatives of the opposition Syrian High Negotiations Committee in Qatar’s capital Doha on Sunday.
“Today’s war is all out war. I condemn this in the name of France. I will take the initiative to bring together those who share the same vision for Syria’s future in the coming hours and days,” he said.
“You can’t stand there and wait for Aleppo to fall. Because it is not only Aleppo at stake, it is all of Syria, the ‘useful’ Syria as they say. If negotiations fail, those who will be defeated will radicalise, to join those we are fighting elsewhere like ISIL and al-Nusra.”
He was referring to the the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group and the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham group, which was formerly known as al-Nusra.
The city of Aleppo, once Syria’s commercial centre, has been divided since 2012, with the eastern half largely in rebel hands and the western half largely controlled by government forces.
More than 250,000 civilians are still trapped in the east, which is under near constant aerial bombardment, with dwindling food supplies and extremely limited medical care.
Damascus launched a renewed assault on eastern Aleppo on Tuesday in a bid to seize full control of the city, a key battleground in Syria’s five-year civil war.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based group that relies on a network of informants in the country to monitor the war, said early on Sunday that 54 people had been killed over the last 24 hours, most of them civilians.
That brought to 103 the number of civilians killed, including 17 children, since the government renewed its bombardment of Aleppo, it said.
The Observatory also reported heavy fighting between government forces and rebels as the army sought to gain ground in the Bustan al-Basha and Sheikh Saeed neighbourhoods of the east.
More than 400,000 people are estimated to have been killed in Syria since the conflict began with anti-government protests in March 2011. Successive attempts to find a peaceful resolution have failed.
Staffan de Mistura, the UN’s peace envoy for Syria, arrived in Damascus on Sunday for talks with Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem. International concern has grown over the renewed assault, which has forced the closure of hospitals and schools, destroyed rescue worker facilities, and left residents cowering in their homes.