World

Assad: Aleppo win would be ‘huge step’ to end war

DAMASCUS: President Bashar al-Assad said victory in Aleppo would be a "huge step" towards ending Syria's five-year civil war, ignoring pleas for a truce as rebels in the city lost more ground.

In a blistering three-week offensive, Syrian government forces have seized about 80 per cent of east Aleppo, a stronghold for rebel groups since 2012, with increasingly cornered opposition factions calling for an "immediate five-day humanitarian ceasefire".

The United States, Britain and France have also called for a truce, warning of a "humanitarian catastrophe", AFP reported.

In an interview with Syrian daily Al-Watan, published yesterday, Mr Assad said defeating the beleaguered rebels in Aleppo "will be a win for us, but let's be realistic - it won't mean the end of the war in Syria. But it will be a huge step towards this end".

When asked about the possibility of a truce in Aleppo, Mr Assad said, "it's practically non-existent, of course".

He said a rebel loss in Aleppo "will mean the transformation of the course of the war across Syria" and would leave opposition factions and their backers with "no cards left to play".

The president pledged to fight rebels even beyond Aleppo, because "the war in Syria will not end until after the complete elimination of terrorism".

He added: "Terrorists are present elsewhere - even if we finish with Aleppo, we will continue our war against them."

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