As evacuations from Aleppo proceed, UN approves monitors


Associated Press

BEIRUT

The leaders of Russia and Iran, military allies of Syria’s president, talked Monday about joining forces to reach a quick political settlement in Syria, as the country’s largest city, Aleppo, was poised to return to full government control.

Syrian state TV said it expected the evacuation of thousands of civilians and fighters from the last opposition footholds in Aleppo to be completed by early today.

As more people left the city, the U.N. Security council approved a compromise French-Russian resolution urging the immediate deployment of U.N. monitors to watch over the evacuation and “the well-being of civilians” remaining in the city. U.N. officials said more than 100 U.N. humanitarian staff already on the ground in Aleppo, most of them Syrian nationals, could be used in that role.

France’s U.N. Ambassador Francois Delattre said the goal of the resolution is “to avoid new mass atrocities by the forces on the ground and the militias in particular.” But thousands of people have already been evacuated from the city and the operation could be completed before the observers arrive.

The departure of the last rebels from Aleppo would close another chapter in Syria’s civil war and would give President Bashar Assad a significant symbolic and strategic victory.

Almost six years after the outbreak of an armed rebellion against Assad, the Syrian leader will be in charge again of the country’s five largest cities and the Mediterranean coast.

The presidents of Russia and Iran spoke by phone Monday to discuss the next moves. The Kremlin said Vladimir Putin and Hassan Rouhani “underlined the need for joint efforts to launch a real political process aimed at a quick settlement in Syria.”

The leaders noted that a quick launch of talks between the Syrian government and the opposition in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana, would be an important step toward that goal, a Kremlin statement said.

The conversation came a day before a scheduled meeting of foreign and defense ministers of Russia, Turkey and Iran in Moscow. Russia and Iran have backed Assad, while Turkey has supported the opposition.

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