British minister expects Assad to recapture Aleppo

AFP , Sunday 11 Dec 2016

 Bashar al-Assad
A handout picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) on December 8, 2016 shows Syrian President Bashar al-Assad speaking during an interview with the Syrian newspaper al-Watan in Damascus. (AFP)

British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said on Sunday that Syrian government forces would likely recapture the battleground city of Aleppo from rebels.

"It looks now as if sadly Aleppo will fall," Fallon told BBC television, as the Syrian army tightened its grip and air strikes pummelled the shrinking rebel enclave in the east of the besieged city.

But he refused to accept that the Russian-backed regime of President Bashar al-Assad was heading for overall victory in Syria's long-running civil war.

"How can you be winning by bombing hospitals, by blocking humanitarian aid convoys?" Fallon asked.

"And you end up with a country that the regime only controls 40 percent of, and is still opposed by most of his people. That's not a victory for anybody."

He said Britain would keep appealing to Russia "to use its influence to get this civil war stopped, to help us rebuild Syria with a genuinely plural government that can appeal to all the people of Syria".

"Then we can get on with the task of dealing with Daesh," or Islamic State, he added.

On the issue of Russia, he warned that while "there are things we have to talk to Russia about, of course to deescalate tension" -- including on NATO deployments in eastern border -- "it can't be business as usual".

"That can't be treating Russia as an equal -- Russia is a strategic competitor to us in the West and we have to understand that," he said.

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