Syrian forces consolidate control of Aleppo


An army spokesman announces Syrian forces have regained control of dozens of villages and towns in Aleppo province.

Yet another advance the day after a huge strategic gain for President Bashar al-Assad on Sunday (February 16), when his forces drove insurgents from the highway linking Aleppo to Damascus.

Reopening the route between Syria's two largest cities for the first time in years.

The latest gains prompting celebrations on Aleppo's streets.

But the cost has been vast.

The fight since the start of the year -- backed by Russian air strikes -- to regain the last parts of the Aleppo countryside and Idlib province has driven hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians towards the border.

In the biggest single displacement of the nine-year-old civil war.

Assad said Monday his forces' recent gains were "a prelude" to the insurgents' defeat, sooner or later.

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) SYRIAN PRESIDENT BASHAR AL-ASSAD, SAYING:

"We know this liberation does not mean the end of the war or the crushing of all plots or the end of terror or the surrender of the enemy but it definitely rubs their noses in the dirt."

His momentum has upset the fragile cooperation between Turkey and Russia, who back opposing sides.

They started a new round of talks on Monday to try to resolve the stand-off -- Ankara wants a ceasefire and for Assad to stand down his forces.

And it has sent convoys of reinforcements to Idlib province to help the insurgents it backs regain lost territory.

But the Syrian army -- flush with victory -- vowed Monday to wipe out militants wherever they are found.