Europe

The Latest: Al-Qaida faction refuses to leave Aleppo

  • FILE In this Monday, Sept. 26, 2016 file photo Russian defense ministry spokesman Maj.-Gen. Igor Konashenkov speaks to the media in Moscow, Russia. Konashenkov strongly warned the United States against striking Syrian government forces and issued a  thinly-veiled threat to use Russian air defense assets to protect them.  (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev, file)

    FILE In this Monday, Sept. 26, 2016 file photo Russian defense ministry spokesman Maj.-Gen. Igor Konashenkov speaks to the media in Moscow, Russia. Konashenkov strongly warned the United States against striking Syrian government forces and issued a thinly-veiled threat to use Russian air defense assets to protect them. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev, file)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - In this Oct. 11, 2015 file photo, Syrian soldiers fire repelling an attack in Achan, Hama province, Syria. he battle for Aleppo has gripped the world, but it is hardly the only front in Syria: Opposition forces are on the offensive in the country’s center hoping to sever the road connection between Aleppo and the capital Damascus, which is itself a front; in the northwest, Turkish-backed opposition forces battle  Islamic State militants; to the east, government forces weather an Islamic State siege of Deir El-Zour.  (Alexander Kots/Komsomolskaya Pravda via AP, File)

    FILE - In this Oct. 11, 2015 file photo, Syrian soldiers fire repelling an attack in Achan, Hama province, Syria. he battle for Aleppo has gripped the world, but it is hardly the only front in Syria: Opposition forces are on the offensive in the country’s center hoping to sever the road connection between Aleppo and the capital Damascus, which is itself a front; in the northwest, Turkish-backed opposition forces battle Islamic State militants; to the east, government forces weather an Islamic State siege of Deir El-Zour. (Alexander Kots/Komsomolskaya Pravda via AP, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - In this Oct. 22, 2015 file photo, a Syrian APC moves raising dust in Harasta, northeast of Damascus, Syria. he battle for Aleppo has gripped the world, but it is hardly the only front in Syria: Opposition forces are on the offensive in the country’s center hoping to sever the road connection between Aleppo and the capital Damascus, which is itself a front; in the northwest, Turkish-backed opposition forces battle  Islamic State militants; to the east, government forces weather an Islamic State siege of Deir El-Zour.  (Alexander Kots/Komsomolskaya Pravda via AP, File)

    FILE - In this Oct. 22, 2015 file photo, a Syrian APC moves raising dust in Harasta, northeast of Damascus, Syria. he battle for Aleppo has gripped the world, but it is hardly the only front in Syria: Opposition forces are on the offensive in the country’s center hoping to sever the road connection between Aleppo and the capital Damascus, which is itself a front; in the northwest, Turkish-backed opposition forces battle Islamic State militants; to the east, government forces weather an Islamic State siege of Deir El-Zour. (Alexander Kots/Komsomolskaya Pravda via AP, File)  (The Associated Press)

The Latest on the conflict in Syria (all times local):

5:30 p.m.

A spokesman for an al-Qaida-linked militant faction in Syria has rejected a proposal by a U.N. envoy to withdraw their fighters from eastern Aleppo, where an estimated 275,000 people are trapped in a government siege.

Hossam al-Shafai of the Fatah al-Sham Front wrote on Twitter Friday that the group is "determined to break the siege" on the city's opposition-held neighborhoods.

Russian and Syrian government forces have been bombarding the city's east for months on the grounds that they are fighting terrorism. Fatah al-Sham, formerly known as the Nusra Front, is listed as a terrorist organization by the United Nations.

U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura on Thursday urged the group's estimated 900 fighters inside the city to leave in exchange for a halt to Russian and Syrian government bombardment.

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5:15 p.m.

Russia's lower house of parliament has ratified a treaty with Syria that allows the Russian military to stay indefinitely in the Mideast country.

The Kremlin-controlled State Duma voted unanimously Friday to ratify the deal, which formalizes Russia's military presence at the Hemeimeem air base in Syria's coastal province of Latakia.

The move comes as a show of support for embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad. The deal allows Russia to use the base free of charge, and for as long as it requires.

Russia launched an air campaign in Syria a year ago, reversing the tide of war and helping Assad's forces win back key ground. Moscow says its goal is to help the Syrian army fight terrorism.

Russia also has a naval base in Syria's port of Tartus.

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4:45 p.m.

The foreign ministers of Italy and Spain are calling for immediate action to end the deteriorating condition in Aleppo, where thousands of civilians are under siege by the government.

Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni referred to the siege as a "terrible humanitarian tragedy," during a press conference in Ankara on Friday. He urged Turkey to ask Russia to put pressure on Damascus to halt its offensive. Russian President Vladimir Putin is scheduled visit Istanbul next week.

In a separate press conference in Ankara, Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo called for the United Nations' Security Council to "immediately" find a solution to the crisis.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has described conditions in eastern Aleppo, where 275,000 people are trapped under a government siege, as "worse than a slaughterhouse."

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4:15 p.m.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says Moscow backs the U.N. Syria envoy's call on al-Qaida-linked militants to leave the besieged city of Aleppo.

Hundreds of people have died as the Syrian army backed by Russian warplanes has stepped up its offensive on rebel-held eastern Aleppo. Special envoy Staffan de Mistura urged fighters from Fatah al-Sham Front, previously known as the Nusra Front, to evacuate to another part of the country to save the ancient city from complete destruction.

Lavrov backed de Mistura's proposal, saying Friday that Moscow is ready to ask Damascus to allow the militants to leave the city with their weapons "for the sake of saving Aleppo."

He added that policies must also be developed to deal with other militants who choose to stay in Aleppo.

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2:45 p.m.

The Russian parliament is discussing the ratification of a treaty with Syria that allows Russian troops to stay indefinitely in the Mideast country.

Lawmakers spoke in favor of the agreement, in a sign of support for embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad, whom Moscow has backed throughout the devastating civil war.

The vote is to be held later Friday.

The treaty allows Russia to keep its forces at the Hemeimeem air base in Syria's coastal province of Latakia, Assad's Alawite heartland, as long as it wants.

Russia launched an air campaign in Syria a year ago, reversing the tide of war and helping Assad's forces win some key ground. Moscow says it seeks to help the Syrian army fight terrorism.

Russia also has a naval base in Syria's port of Tartus.