Syrian government forces, backed by Russian airstrikes, gained significant foothold around the key city of Aleppo Saturday, setting their sights on the Islamic State group-controlled Raqqa province, according to media reports.
The move came after many world powers agreed on a “cessation of hostilities” in Syria at the Munich Security Conference Friday. Russia, however, reportedly said in the meeting that “a Syria ceasefire plan is more likely to fail than succeed.”
The Syrian army, along with fighters loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad, on Saturday regained control of al-Tamoura town and several surrounding hills located in Aleppo’s northern suburbs, according to the state news agency SANA. The offensive has placed the government troops closer to one of the main supply lines of the Syrian rebels, who still hold much of Aleppo, according to local media reports.
Russia was hitting “legitimate opposition groups” and civilians with its bombing campaign in Syria and Moscow must change its targets to respect the ceasefire deal, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said, according to Reuters.
However, Russia rejected the accusations that it was bombing civilians in Syria.
Countries, including the U.S., Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia, had agreed to a complete ceasefire in Syria that could serve as a bridge towards the resumption of genuine peace talks later this month. However, when asked to assess the chances of the deal succeeding, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov answered “49 percent” in Munich Saturday.
Lavrov's German counterpart, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, put the odds at 51 percent when asked the same question.