Syrian government shows off areas recaptured from rebels in Aleppo

Government forces are reported to have recaptured half of rebel-held territory in the city

Syrian government shows off areas recaptured from rebels in Aleppo

A general picture shows Aleppo citadel and the President Mosque, in the Syrian government controlled central Aleppo. Picture by Hassan Ammar AP/Press Association Images

The Syrian government has been showing off its gains in eastern Aleppo, once the country's biggest city and commercial centre.

State media reported from areas captured this week from rebels in a Russian-backed ground offensive.

They said roads had been restored, debris removed and civilians resettled.

Syrian president Bashar al Assad claims his troops are closer to taking the whole city in what would be a major blow to rebel forces.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says government forces have recaptured half of rebel-held territory in Aleppo since mid-November.

It says they have overrun the northeast of the city and are now making gains in the far eastern rebel-held enclave.

"After the recent advances, the regime is comfortably in control of half of former rebel territory in the city's east," Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said.

The UN aid agency says around 31,500 people have been displaced as a result of the recent fighting.

Meanwhile, talks between the US and Russia aimed at breaking the diplomatic deadlock over ways to end the fighting have been taking place in Rome.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said a number of "ideas" had been put forward which would be examined at follow-up discussions next week.

He stressed both countries regarded the situation as urgent and would not wait for US President-elect Donald Trump to take office next month.

"We have exchanged a set of ideas, which there will be a meeting on early next week in Geneva, and we have to wait and see whether those ideas have any legs to them," Mr Kerry said.

He added: "I will say that both sides understand the importance of trying to continue the diplomacy and trying to see if something can be done.

"Nobody is waiting for the next administration. We both feel there is urgency."

Mr Kerry was speaking after meeting Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who said Moscow would not allow Syria to descend into chaos like Libya after Colonel Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown.

The US has accused Russia of war crimes in Syria and blamed it for the failure to get desperately-needed aid through to Aleppo residents.

But Mr Lavrov said the US and the UN were responsible for the current situation. 

He said the US had failed to separate so-called "moderate" rebel groups from the al Qaeda fighters that Russia says it is targeting.

He also questioned why the UN is not restarting peace talks and attempting to get aid to areas in need, despite one of its convoys being hit by an airstrike in September.

"The time is ripe for compromise," Mr Lavrov said.