UN envoy proposes zones to 'freeze' Syria fighting

UNITED NATIONS, United States - UN peace envoy Staffan de Mistura proposed Thursday setting up so-called "freeze zones" in war-torn Syria to suspend fighting in some areas and allow humanitarian aid to be delivered.

De Mistura told reporters after meeting with the UN Security Council that he did not have a peace plan but rather "an action plan" to ease suffering from the more than three-year war in Syria.

The envoy said the divided city of Aleppo would be a "good candidate" to become a freeze zone, which he did not describe in detail but would entail agreement on a local level to stop fighting.

"It should be something that freezes the conflict in that area and gives an opportunity for some type of humanitarian improvement and for the people to feel that, at least there, there will not be this type of conflict," he said.

Aleppo has been divided since a rebel offensive in summer 2012 between government-controlled sectors on its west side and rebel territory on the east.

The envoy said the "horrific trigger" of the Islamist offensive should provide an opportunity to "move forward" and seek ways to end the Syrian conflict that has killed more than 180,000 people and forced millions from their homes.

De Mistura was reporting to the 15-member council after making key visits to Russia and Iran, two countries that have influence with President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

Syrian Ambassador Bashaar Jafaari said his government was ready to give the envoy's proposals "due consideration" and that he would hear more about the plan during a meeting on Friday.

Council members were open to the idea which who could be the first steps toward a national dialogue, according to diplomats.

But there were concerns that the Assad regime would use the pause in ground fighting to launch more bombing against civilians and gain the upper hand over opposition forces.

"We have to start somewhere," said De Mistura who acknowledged that while this may be only "a drop" in the peace process, "many drops can produce a lake and a lake can produce a sea."