Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shogu is reporting a “very active phase of negotiations” with the United States, which has brought the two sides close to a deal on joint operations in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, aimed at ending the siege of large parts of the city.
Aleppo is split between government-held districts and a rebel-held half, held by the Nusra Front, which has recently made gains and is attempting to block off the government-held west. Shogu warned that the people under Nusra rule in the east aren’t any better off, saying they are “hostages” to the faction, a long-time al-Qaeda affiliate which recent rebranded itself.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also sought to defend Russia’s plan for a three-hour daily humanitarian ceasefire, saying that Nusra uses those ceasefires to regroup and rearm, and that anything longer than these breaks would allow them to further gain the upper hand.
The US has long been reported to be discussing joint operations with the Russians against Nusra, though the US has also been loudly critical of Russia for helping the government in resisting Nusra in Aleppo. The State Department refused to confirm that a deal was close, but did say that they speak regularly with the Russians about ways to improve aid access across Syria.