Putin calls for Syria peace talks

As he spoke, thousands of civilians and rebel soldiers continued to flee Aleppo in convoys as the second day of evacuations within an agreed ceasefire began on Friday.

Up to 9,000 people have already been taken out of the besieged city in nine convoys since Thursday, including 108 wounded, according to Russian and Syrian state media.

For many of those leaving, their destination will be the rebel-controlled Syrian province of Idlib — likely the Bashar al-Assad regime’s next target.

An activist working inside the city broke down talking to CNN reporters on Friday, saying he wasn’t sure if his children would ever return to Aleppo.

“We waited for the international community and the United Nations to punish the criminal and not the victims (the people). Unfortunately the punishment was for the people. They have displaced us from our land,” he said.

“Honestly I don’t know if we can return back someday to our land or if it is going to be like the fate of the Palestinians.”

Latest developments

  • Putin proposes Syrian national peace talks in Kazakhstan to “end all the shooting”
  • Syrian President Bashar al-Assad congratulates Syrians on “liberation” of Aleppo
  • Evacuations are now underway for a second day, with many people waiting to leave Aleppo
  • Many civilians must choose between Aleppo and Idlib province, where fighting continues

Putin calls for national treaty

The Syrian regime is on the brink of retaking the whole city of Aleppo, which has been partly held by rebels for more than four years.

While CNN sources say eastern parts of the city are still under rebel control, the regime has made extensive gains in the past two weeks.

Speaking during his trip to Japan, Putin said he had proposed national Syrian peace talks during a phone call to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday.

He suggested they could be held in Kazakhstan.

“Syrian forces have achieved success in allowing the Syrian people to lead their ordinary lives and return to their homes, next step is an agreement about stopping all the fighting, all the shooting,” he told reporters.

In the same press conference, Putin blamed ISIS forces’ recapture of Palmyra in the past week on poor cooperation between Syrian, Russian and Western coalition forces.
Speaking at the United Nations on Tuesday, US Ambassador Samantha Power unleashed a tirade against Syria and its ally, Russia, for the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo.

“To the Assad regime, Russia, and Iran, your forces and proxies are carrying out these crimes. Your barrel bombs and mortars and airstrikes have allowed the militia in Aleppo to encircle tens of thousands of civilians … Are you truly incapable of shame?” she said.

Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin responded in kind, reminding Power of America’s “track record” in the Middle East. “Please, remember which country you represent,” he told her during a speech.

‘The world will be watching’

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad celebrated the “liberation” of Aleppo on Thursday, congratulating the Syrian people and saying “history is being written by every Syrian citizen.”

The statement was released on Assad’s office’s YouTube channel.

US Secretary of State John Kerry described what had already occurred in Aleppo as “unconscionable,” adding all sides had to work together on a ceasefire.

“There remains tens of thousands of lives that are now concentrated into a very small area of Aleppo, and the last thing anybody wants to see — and the world will be watching — is that that small area turns into another Srebrenica,” he said.

Turkish President Erdogan said there were a lot of people left in eastern Aleppo. “I hope the (evacuation) process will not be interrupted,” he said, according to Turkish state news agency Anadolu.

Families choose between war zones

While the world has been focused on Aleppo. Idlib has been attacked with regime airstrikes leading to dozens of reported deaths.

That is the current destination for many of the civilians leaving Aleppo.

English teacher and activist Abdulkafi al-Hamdo told CNN she was debating whether to leave with his 9-month-old daughter or to stay.

“I’m thinking of leaving. I’m thinking of what would happen if we didn’t leave,” he said.

He said he hopes his daughter would “come back to Aleppo as a young girl who knows the meaning of freedom.”

Busses carrying injured people leave eastern Aleppo.

Others have been forced to stay in Aleppo after buses which came to take civilians away were filled too fast.

Some people being evacuated are injured or suffering from other medical problems, such as anemia and malnutrition, Syrian American Medical Society senior adviser Dr Zaher Sahloul said.

“You have patients who are very traumatized psychologically because of what they’ve witnessed of extreme violence, destruction and the killing of their family members,” he said.

CNN’s Jomana Karadsheh and Kareem Khadder contributed to this report.

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