BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said recent army advances in Aleppo will completely change the course of the country’s war, state television reported on Wednesday.
Syrian government forces may be on the verge of taking full control of the city, Syria’s most populous before the war and which has been divided between government- and rebel-held zones for years.
Recapturing it would represent the most important stride forward in Assad’s efforts to end the rebellion after nearly six years of conflict.
“Aleppo will completely change the course of the battle in all of Syria,” the broadcaster quoted Assad as telling al-Watan newspaper in an interview due to be published on Thursday.
He also said the Syrian government consulted with Russia daily, and “no decision is issued without discussions between the two countries”.
Aleppo has become the focal point of the war, which pits Assad, helped by Russia’s air force and Iranian-backed militias, against mostly Sunni rebels groups including some supported by the United States, Turkey and Gulf monarchies.
Assad described Aleppo as the “last hope” of rebels and their backers, “after their failure in the battles of Damascus and Homs”, pro-Damascus television al-Mayadeen reported.
Damascus and Moscow have said they want rebels to leave the city and will not consider a ceasefire unless that happens.
The war in Syria has killed hundreds of thousands of people, made more than half of Syrians homeless and created the world’s worst refugee crisis.
“The decision to liberate all of Syria is taken and Aleppo is part of it,” Mayadeen quoted Assad as saying.
Reporting by Ellen Francis and Kinda Makieh, editing by Larry King and John Stonestreet