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Pro-Regime Forces Reach Agreement With Syrian Rebels In Aleppo


People trapped by fighting in Syria's biggest city, Aleppo, have been pleading desperately for help. Now Syrian rebels say there is a deal for a cease-fire. They say the agreement would let civilians safely leave eastern Aleppo. That's the part of the city under rebel control. Government forces helped by Russia are very close to retaking it.

Pawel Krzysiek is with the International Committee of the Red Cross. He's in western Aleppo where he's been helping refugees come in from the eastern part of the city. We spoke via Skype, and he confirmed that the two sides had struck an agreement, although he didn't have a lot of details.

PAWEL KRZYSIEK: I mean it's definitely an agreement between the warring side. I think what has to be done are the modalities, the details that must be actually agreed upon. And based on these details, I mean we will have to see how the ICRC, how the humanitarian actors can get really involved. We really hope that, you know, the best interest of the civilians will be preserved in this agreement.

SIEGEL: But there is an agreement in principle between pro-regime forces and rebel forces that something should be done to get civilians out of the city safely.

KRZYSIEK: To my knowledge, this is what has been announced by both sides. Right now, what we need are the actions, not the words. So let's see how this all turn out into these actions.

SIEGEL: Is the danger that civilians are being caught in the crossfire, or are they being targeted in the fight for Aleppo?

KRZYSIEK: Look; this is an active conflict. People are facing incredible choices. Those who have fled to western sides were telling me yesterday when I visited the collective shelter that they basically very often had to just walk for hours from one building to another, from one kind of a, you know, hole in the wall to another, like, escaping either mortar fire or a shelling or a sniper fire. I mean they are risking their lives.

SIEGEL: Mr. Krzysiek, Americans see horrific pictures and terrifying accounts of what's happening in Aleppo. Is there some particular role for the United States at this stage?

KRZYSIEK: At this point, any support that - you know, that could put the civilians, you know, ahead of the military objectives is very much needed. It's not up to us to define what, how this support should look like. But this is a very internationalized conflict. So I believe that any support to bring - to put an end to the suffering of civilians - it's very welcome.

I mean the humanitarian aid will not solve the problem of this country. The only problem - the only solution to the problem in this country's a political solution. And this solution has to be done. It has to be found.

SIEGEL: Pawel Krzysiek, ICRC spokesman in Aleppo, thank you very much for talking with us today.

KRZYSIEK: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.