Syria's Assad - Taking Aleppo will push 'terrorists' back to Turkey: newspaper

(CNN) - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad insists his forces must continue "to clean" Aleppo, even as diplomats prepare for a weekend of meetings aimed at halting the bloodshed in rebel-held areas of the city.

The UK is considering military options in the Syrian conflict, but any action would need to be part of a coalition involving the United States, Britain's foreign minister said on Thursday.

The U.S. and Russian Federation are on opposing sides of the Syrian war, with Washington supporting a political resolution that includes moderate Syrian rebels, and Moscow providing military support to Syrian President Bashar Assad.

In an interview with a Russian newspaper published on Friday, Assad said taking back the city, once the country's industrial hub, would provide important political and strategic gains for his government.

Kirby also emphasized the importance of both tracks of talks - with Russian Federation, which has "the most influence on Assad", and with other regional players with "influence on other units".

Assad also said Turkey's actions in Syria constituted an invasion which was against worldwide law and the country's civil war was now a conflict between Russian Federation and the West. "I think we're still a pretty long day's march from getting there, but that doesn't mean that discussions aren't going on, because they certainly are". "Flour will run out in a month", he told reporters by telephone Friday from the city of Gazientep in southern Turkey.

A U.S. official - speaking on condition of anonymity - said: "The Russians have been engaged in a sustained campaign to recapture what Putin considers their rightful buffer in Eastern Europe, and to undermine not just North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union, but the entire democratic foundation of both institutions".

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are expected to hold new ceasefire talks in Lausanne on Saturday along with counterparts from Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar - all backers of Syrian opposition forces.

Following last month's collapse of the cease-fire, the Obama administration cut off diplomatic talks and Washington-Moscow ties deteriorated sharply.

About 87 people were wounded from the airstrikes, including some who are in critical condition. Three hundred people have lost their life in the bombing.

More than 370 people, including almost 70 children, have been killed in regime and Russian bombardment of east Aleppo since government forces announced a landmark offensive to take the entire city on September 22. The U.N. says over 100 children have been killed in the campaign, which has also included a limited ground offensive. "This has become a daily occurrence", said Carlos Francisco, MSF Head of Mission for Syria.

"The use of starvation of civilians through the besiegement of populated areas, as a tactic of war, and forced population transfers are contrary to global law", the draft said. "Children should be protected at all times".

Shelling by rebel and jihadist groups, meanwhile, has killed 68 people in government-held areas.

The fresh aerial assault was accompanied by the regime's advance on the northeastern outskirts of Aleppo, where its forces captured several hilltops overlooking the opposition-held areas.



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