December 22, 2014
Russia: Syria to ship more chemical weapons abroad for destruction
Russia has said its ally Syria would soon ship more chemical weapons abroad for destruction after being accused of dragging its feet, while activists said civilians in Aleppo were fleeing deadly barrel bomb raids by President Bashar al-Assad's air force.
Moscow also said that the Syrian government would show up at a new round of peace talks next week, hoping to allay Western concerns over Assad's commitment to negotiations which ended inconclusively in Geneva last week.
The diplomatic assurances come as government forces escalate their assault on Syria's second city of Aleppo, using a near daily barrage of barrel bombs that some activists say is forcing residents to flee and slowly gaining ground for the president against rebel forces weakened by weeks of infighting.
While the fall of Aleppo is not seen as imminent, Assad is keen to control it, together with the capital Damascus and his heartland along the coast. But the rest of the country remains fragmented between rebel, Kurds and other armed groups.
"In recent days the flight of civilians has intensified and the regime has made some small gains," said Rami Abdelrahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a pro-opposition monitoring group.
"The main aid to their advance has been the rebel infighting."