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Damascus: A top adviser to President Bashar al-Assad says Syria won't stop Aleppo offensive until it secures the border with Turkey, potentially cutting off 300,000 people from humanitarian aid.
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Assad forces gain ground in Aleppo
Syrian soldiers enter the towns of Nubl and al-Zahraa near Aleppo, potentially cutting off rebel forces from their supply lines in Turkey.
Bouthaina Shaaban, a top adviser to Mr Assad said on Tuesday the regime hoped "the operation will continue in the north until we control the borders and stop the terrorists who Turkey has since the start of the crisis worked to send to Syria".
In an interview in her Damascus office, Ms Shaaban held out little hope for diplomatic efforts to end the five-year civil war.
She did not expect success for peace talks, saying the problem remained one of foreign support for militants in Syria and if there had been "a real international desire" to end the problem, the crisis would been resolved years ago.
"The states that support terrorism in Syria, behind the financing and weapons, did not take a decision to halt this financing and arming, and, therefore, we do not see success for the diplomatic efforts," she said.
Alongside Turkey, Saudi Arabia had been a major sponsor of the insurgency that grew out of an uprising against Assad's rule.
The Syrian army, backed by Russian air strikes and Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah ground troops, has launched a major advance in recent weeks near Aleppo, once Syria's biggest city, now divided between rebel and government-held sectors.
The offensive, one of the biggest shifts in momentum of the civil war, has brought government forces closer than they have been in years to a border crossing with Turkey that has served as the main supply route into rebel-held territory.
The assault prompted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to indicate his government was ready to consider joining the military fight with the US coalition if asked, and that "Turkey is under threat".
On Monday, Turkey entered Syria near the Turkish town of Killis to deliver food and medical aid to thousands of people fleeing the assault on Aleppo.
The fighting wrecked the first attempt at peace talks for two years and led rebel fighters to speak about losing their northern power base altogether.
There would be no let-up in an army advance, which aimed "to liberate cities and villages that were controlled by the terrorists for three-and-a-half years, and also an attempt to liberate the city of Aleppo from the crimes of terrorism", Ms Shaaban said.
She said proposals for a ceasefire were coming from states that "do not want an end to terrorism" and wanted to shore up insurgents who were losing ground.
The United Nations said on Tuesday it was worried about the fate of up to 300,000 people still living in rebel-held parts of Aleppo.
It was concerned the government advance could cut the last link for civilians in rebel-held parts of Aleppo with the main Turkish border crossing, which had long served as the lifeline for insurgent-controlled territory.
"It would leave up to 300,000 people, still residing in the city, cut off from humanitarian aid unless cross-line access could be negotiated," the UN Office for Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.
If government advances around the city continued, it said, "local councils in the city estimate that some 100,000 to 150,000 civilians may flee".
Tens of thousands of people have left the area, and Turkey, which has taken in 2.5 million Syrian refugees, has, so far, mostly kept the border closed to them, despite UN calls to allow them to flee.
Ms Shaaban said Turkey was using the refugee crisis to blackmail European states, criticising its government and its "Ottoman ambitions" as the prime cause of the war that had driven 11 million people from their homes and killed 250,000 people.
In recent weeks, the Syrian army and its allies have gained ground in the provinces of Latakia and Aleppo, which border Turkey to the north, and Deraa, which borders Jordan to the south. They have also advanced against Islamic State to the east of Aleppo.
The gains helped to tip the momentum President Assad's way after Damascus lost ground last year to an array of insurgents in western Syria, including the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, other Islamist groups, and "Free Syrian Army" rebels that had received US backing.
The Syrian government describes all the groups fighting it as terrorists.
The advance helped derail the first peace talks in two years, which collapsed last week before they had begun in earnest, with rebels demanding a halt to bombardment, something the Syrian government criticised as pre-conditions for talks.
International powers are expected to meet this week to revive diplomacy as Washington seeks a truce.
Asked if military operations would continue at the same pace, Ms Shaaban said: "Certainly, God willing."