Europe

The Latest: Assad: Aleppo win 'big gain' but not end of war

  • This Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016 photo, released by the International Committee for the Red Cross, shows members of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent laying a patient on stretcher after taking him out of a medical facility in the Old City of Aleppo, Syria. The ICRC said it evacuated 148 disabled or civilians in need of urgent care from the facility, now under Syrian government control. ICRC said in a statement Thursday the evacuation was possible after fighting calmed down in the area. (Syrian Arab Red Crescent/Noor Hazouri via AP)

    This Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016 photo, released by the International Committee for the Red Cross, shows members of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent laying a patient on stretcher after taking him out of a medical facility in the Old City of Aleppo, Syria. The ICRC said it evacuated 148 disabled or civilians in need of urgent care from the facility, now under Syrian government control. ICRC said in a statement Thursday the evacuation was possible after fighting calmed down in the area. (Syrian Arab Red Crescent/Noor Hazouri via AP)  (The Associated Press)

  • This Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016 photo, released by the International Committee for the Red Cross, shows members of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent carrying a patient on stretcher out of a medical facility in the Old City of Aleppo, Syria. The ICRC said it evacuated 148 disabled or civilians in need of urgent care from the facility, now under Syrian government control. ICRC said in a statement Thursday the evacuation was possible after fighting calmed down in the area. (Syrian Arab Red Crescent/Noor Hazouri via AP)

    This Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016 photo, released by the International Committee for the Red Cross, shows members of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent carrying a patient on stretcher out of a medical facility in the Old City of Aleppo, Syria. The ICRC said it evacuated 148 disabled or civilians in need of urgent care from the facility, now under Syrian government control. ICRC said in a statement Thursday the evacuation was possible after fighting calmed down in the area. (Syrian Arab Red Crescent/Noor Hazouri via AP)  (The Associated Press)

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

11:30 a.m.

Syrian President Bashar Assad says victory in the battle for Aleppo will be a "big gain" for his government but that it will not be the end of the war in Syria.

In an interview published on Thursday in the state-owned newspaper al-Watan, Assad described his forces' fight in Aleppo as one against terrorism and a conspiracy to destroy and divide Syria, allegedly led by Turkey.

Assad says that "liberating Aleppo from the terrorists deals a blow to the whole foundation of this project."

With Aleppo, Syria's largest city and former commercial heart, the capital of Damascus and Homs, the third largest city under his control, Assad says "terrorists" no longer hold any cards.

But he added, "to be realistic, it doesn't mean the end of the war."

"Even if we finish in Aleppo, we will carry on with the war against them."

___

9:40 a.m.

A Russian deputy foreign minister says Russia is close to reaching a deal with the United States on a cease-fire for the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo.

The Syrian government and its ally Russia have rejected previous calls for truce for the war-torn city, keeping up the military offensive that has squeezed and forced rebels to retreat in several areas.

Russian news agencies on Thursday quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying that Moscow and Washington are "close to reaching an understanding" on Aleppo but warned against "high expectations."

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met on Wednesday in Germany but didn't release any statements.

Ryabkov said the Kerry-Lavrov talks were extensive but said a final deal has not been worked out yet.