Russia Says Close to Joint Military Action With U.S. in Aleppo

MOSCOW (Reuters) -

Russia and the United States are close to starting joint military action in Syria’s Aleppo, Russian news agencies on Monday quoted Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu as saying.

Fighting for control of the divided city of some 2 million people has intensified in recent weeks and there have been some gains for rebel groups battling Syrian government forces.

Russia backs Syrian President Bashar al Assad in the five-year-old Syria conflict, while the United States wants to see Assad step down. But both are participating in talks to try to find a political solution to end the civil war.

Senior Russian and U.S. military officials have held Geneva negotiations on Aleppo and on restoring an overall ceasefire, U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said last Thursday.

“We are now in a very active phase of negotiations with our American colleagues,” the RIA news agency cited Shoigu as saying. “We are moving step by step closer to a plan — and I’m only talking about Aleppo here — that would really allow us to start fighting together to bring peace so that people can return to their homes in this troubled land.”

Asked about Shoigu’s remarks, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau told reporters in Washington: “We have seen the reports and have nothing to announce … We remain in close contact [with Russian officials].”