December 6, 2016 / 11:27 AM / in 8 months

Syria says it rejects Aleppo ceasefire if rebels remain - state media

The sun rises while smoke is pictured near Aleppo's historic citadel, as seen from a government-controlled area of Aleppo, Syria December 6, 2016.Omar Sanadiki

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syria rejects any ceasefire negotiated by any party in rebel-held eastern Aleppo unless what it describes as terrorist groups there depart, its Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday in a statement carried by state media.

Moscow said on Monday that Russian and U.S. officials would meet this week to discuss a possible rebel withdrawal from Aleppo. A U.S. official told Reuters that Washington would embrace that as a step to save lives.

The Syrian government describes all the rebel groups fighting to bring down President Bashar al-Assad as terrorists. The insurgents include groups backed by the United States, Turkey and Gulf monarchies, as well as jihadist militants.

Russia and China vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution on Monday for a week-long ceasefire, with Moscow arguing that rebels used such pauses in the fighting to reinforce, causing more fighting and harm to civilians.

Russia, Assad's most powerful foreign supporter, has conducted a campaign of air strikes against the rebels since September 2015, including in Aleppo.

It says it is targeting the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham group, a former al Qaeda affiliate previously known as the Nusra Front, in the city. Rebels based in Aleppo say that Fateh al-Sham is not present there in significant numbers.

Reporting By Angus McDowall; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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