The Latest: Russia backs UN call for al-Qaida Aleppo exit

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

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.


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.