BEIRUT (Reuters) – Syria rejects any ceasefire negotiated by any party in rebel-held eastern Aleppo unless what it describes as terrorist groups there depart, its Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday in a statement carried by state media.
Moscow said on Monday that Russian and U.S. officials would meet this week to discuss a possible rebel withdrawal from Aleppo. A U.S. official told Reuters that Washington would embrace that as a step to save lives.
The Syrian government describes all the rebel groups fighting to bring down President Bashar al-Assad as terrorists. The insurgents include groups backed by the United States, Turkey and Gulf monarchies, as well as jihadist militants.
Russia and China vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution on Monday for a week-long ceasefire, with Moscow arguing that rebels used such pauses in the fighting to reinforce, causing more fighting and harm to civilians.
Russia, Assad’s most powerful foreign supporter, has conducted a campaign of air strikes against the rebels since September 2015, including in Aleppo.
It says it is targeting the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham group, a former al Qaeda affiliate previously known as the Nusra Front, in the city. Rebels based in Aleppo say that Fateh al-Sham is not present there in significant numbers.
(Reporting By Angus McDowall; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)