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Turkey, Qatar, Saudis agreed to put pressure on Syrian rebels: Russia

Russia says regional states have agreed to push rebel fighters away from Nusra militants in Aleppo
At least 430 people have been killed in bombardment of east Aleppo since 22 September (AFP)

Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have agreed to military talks with the United States and Russia on efforts to distance Syrian opposition fighters from the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front, Russia's ambassador said on Monday.

"Those countries did express their intention to work hard with those moderate opposition groups in order for them to be separated from al-Nusra," Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters.

Russia has repeatedly demanded that the Syrian rebels break off from Nusra as a condition to revive a ceasefire in the battleground city of Aleppo.

Nusra announced cutting its ties to al-Qaeda in July, rebranding itself as Fateh al-Sham, but Washington, Moscow and the UN still consider the group to be a terrorist organisation.

Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are all backing armed groups fighting Syrian government forces in the five-year war.

The UN Security Council met behind closed doors to discuss the latest round of talks held in Lausanne over the weekend to try to revive diplomatic efforts.

During his briefing to the council, UN envoy Staffan de Mistura said "new ideas were floated" during the Lausanne talks but that "significant differences remain" on the way forward, diplomats said.

Churkin said that the Nusra fighters must be forced to leave Aleppo "or they will have to be defeated," adding that their departure would pave the way for a ceasefire.

If the Nusra fighters leave, "the understanding of Lausanne is that then the moderate opposition and the Syrian government will enter into cessation of hostilities negotiations which will make it possible to prevent further bloodshed and prevent loss of life," he said.

The Russian envoy cited figures from De Mistura that some 900 fighters in Aleppo were from Nusra, compared to some 10,000-12,000 opposition rebels.

De Mistura earlier this month offered to personally escort the militants out of Aleppo to avoid the destruction of the city by air strikes.

Russia on Monday announced plans for an eight-hour pause in Aleppo, which it said will take place on Thursday and allow for free passage of civilians, evacuation of the wounded and withdrawal of fighters.

Syria's second city, Aleppo, has come under heavy bombardment since the Russia-backed Syrian military announced an offensive in late September to regain control of the east.

More than 430 people have been killed in bombardment on the eastern half since the assault on Aleppo was announced on 22 September, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.