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'Martyr City': French MPs Did Not Expect to See 'Life Go on in Aleppo'

© REUTERS / Omar Sanadiki Supporters of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad carry their national flags and gesture as they tour the streets in celebration of what they say is the Syrian army's victory against the rebels in Aleppo, Syria December 12, 2016
Supporters of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad carry their national flags and gesture as they tour the streets in celebration of what they say is the Syrian army's victory against the rebels in Aleppo, Syria December 12, 2016 - Sputnik International
A group of French lawmakers, including Thierry Mariani from the Republicans (LR) party, his fellow LR member Nicolas Dhuicq and former member of the Democratic Movement party Jean Lassale, recently visited Syria.

During their trip, the lawmakers visited Aleppo and had an opportunity to see the actual situation in the city recently liberated from terrorists.

Citizens at a yard of the Umayyad Mosque of Aleppo destroyed following military actions. The Umayyad Mosque was the largest and the oldest mosque of Aleppo - Sputnik International
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Aleppo, Syria's second largest city which used to be the country's economic capital, has been mired in the civil war since August 2012 with the western part of the city has been controlled by the Syrian Army while the eastern part was occupied by various Islamist and rebel groups, including al-Nusra Front.

On December 16, the Russian Defense Ministry said that the Syrian Army's operation to liberate militant-controlled eastern Aleppo was completed, however, several hotbeds of militants' resistance remained. On December 22, the last militants left eastern Aleppo, thus the Syrian Army gained full control over the city.

In an exclusive interview with Sputnik French, Mariani pointed out the difference between mainstream media coverage and the real situation on the ground in Aleppo.

​Mainstream media coverage on Aleppo gives the impression of a city lying in ruins and totally abandoned by its inhabitants. However, according to the lawmaker, what he saw in Aleppo is radically different.

"It is well-known that some mainstream media outlets are biased. Before I arrived to Aleppo I expected to see a totally ruined city and a completely destroyed population. But what does the reality look like? Some 15 percent of the city is destroyed, 20 percent are seriously damaged, but 65 percent are completely unaffected," Mariani said.

"When you come to Aleppo you can see that life goes on," he added.

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad speaks during an interview with Spanish newspaper El Pais in Damascus, in this handout picture provided by SANA on February 20, 2016. - Sputnik International
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The lawmaker also commented on civil casualties in Aleppo during the war. According to Mariani, before the war the population of Aleppo was 3.5 million and 35,000 were killed during the conflict.

"I expected to see that the entire Aleppo population was destroyed. In fact, 35,000 dead is awful. The casualties should not be underestimated. But those numbers are far from what mainstream media describes as a 'total extermination,'" he underscored.

Mariani noted that those making inaccurate comments and reports on Aleppo should visit the city to see the situation with their own eyes.

"Aleppo is a martyr city. Now, it is liberated and needs to be rebuilt. I think that more journalists and politicians should visit Aleppo before telling things that do not correspond with reality," he pointed out.

​Mariani also said that during the visit to Aleppo he and his colleagues met a lot of Franco-Syrians and French-speaking people. According to the lawmaker, a lot of those people are discontent with France’s stance on the Syrian conflict.

Residents in al-Midan neighborhood in Syria's Aleppo - Sputnik International
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"They told us the same thing: 'We can’t see France’s involvement here. It’s wrong.' Look at those countries that have changed their stance. By contrast, look at Russia that keeps its policy unchanged. The most important thing is to achieve peace. It doesn’t matter what we think about [Syrian President Bashar Assad]. If we want peace first we should find a compromise with him," Mariani said.

"It is easy to stay in the 7th arrondissement of Paris [where the French National Assembly is situated], read liberal newspapers and then explain what the real situation is [in Syria]. Actually, the situation on the ground is different," he added.

Mariani also said that he and his colleagues Nicolas Dhuicq and Jean Lassale met with President Assad in Damascus. The parties discussed chemical attacks allegations against the Syrian Army and Syrian government’s plans to reach peace and rebuild the country.

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