Damascus : Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said a victory for his army in the battered second city of Aleppo would be a “huge step” towards ending the country’s five-year civil war. In an interview with Syrian daily Al-Watan to be published on Friday, an early copy of which was seen by AFP, Assad said defeating beleaguered rebels in Aleppo would not put an end to Syria’s conflict. “It’s true that Aleppo will be a win for us, but let’s be realistic – it won’t mean the end of the war in Syria,” Assad said.

  “But it will be a huge step towards this end,” he said. 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. Increasingly cornered in a pocket of territory in the city’s southeast, opposition factions today called for an “immediate five-day humanitarian ceasefire”. When asked about the possibility of a truce in Aleppo, Assad said, “it’s practically non-existent, of course.”

“The Americans in particular are insisting on demanding a truce, because their terrorist agents are now in a difficult situation,” Assad told Al-Watan. He said a rebel loss in Aleppo “will mean the transformation of the course of the war across Syria.”

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