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Syria agrees to Aleppo aid mission

The United Nations envoy to Syria is sending a mission to the contested city of Aleppo to determine the situation on the ground and help ensure that humanitarian aid can reach civilians in need if a local truce is reached.

The envoy, Staffan de Mistura, is in Damascus for talks with Syrian officials to try to arrange a "freeze" in fighting in Aleppo, which has been divided into government- and rebel-held districts since mid-2012. He envisions a local truce as the first step toward a wider easing of hostilities, although his plan has been greeted with scepticism by activists, analysts and the opposition.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Mr de Mistura will continue talks with President Bashar Assad's government to try to implement the local truce. He did not provide a timeframe for the Aleppo trip, but outlined its goals.

"The mission will aim to assess the situation on the ground and to ensure that, once the freeze is announced, humanitarian aid can significantly increase, and to prepare arrangements to follow up on violations of the freeze," Mr Dujarric said in a statement.

Mr de Mistura has already secured a commitment from the Syrian government to suspend airstrikes and artillery shelling in Aleppo for six weeks. The UN envoy still needs the armed opposition's support for the freeze plan, which could prove challenging with the multitude of rebel groups operating in the city.

The government, meanwhile, has repeatedly agreed to international peace efforts while simultaneously ignoring the commitments it has made under them.

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