Russia said Sunday that new talks are under way to halt the Syrian bombardment of the rebel stronghold in Aleppo after the United States demanded that a truce elsewhere in Syria be extended to the embattled city.
Lieutenant General Sergei Kuralenko, head of Moscow's coordination center in Syria, told Russian news agencies, "Currently, active negotiations are under way to establish a 'regime of silence' in Aleppo province."
Kuralenko, speaking from Russia's Hmeimim air base, also said that a freeze in fighting in Eastern Ghouta, a suburb to the east of the capital Damascus, had been extended by another 24 hours, into Monday. He said a halt to fighting was also holding in northern Latakia province.
"We are calling on all sides interested in establishing peace in Syria to support the Russian-American initiative and not to allow a regime of silence to be disrupted," Kuralenko said.
Aleppo has become the latest flashpoint in the five years of fighting in Syria between forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and rebel groups trying to overthrow his regime.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says that nearly 250 civilians have died in shelling, rocket fire and air raids in the contested city since April 22, including at least 50 people in a hospital supported by the international charity Doctors Without Borders that was hit in an airstrike.
Aleppo was calmer Sunday, with less fighting. But the British monitoring group said 859 civilians, including 143 children, were killed throughout the country in April. United Nations monitors reported last week that the February truce brokered by the United States and Russia has been left in shambles.
About 30 airstrikes by Syrian government warplanes and helicopter gunships hit rebel-held areas of the northern city of Aleppo Saturday, killing at least five people.
The surge of violence comes as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) warned that the intensification of fighting could bring many people closer to a humanitarian disaster in Aleppo, Syria's one-time commercial center.
More than 80 international and Syrian non-government organizations signed an urgent statement Friday demanding that U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin respond to appeals by the United Nations and try to stop the bloodshed.
From Geneva, U.N. rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said this past week's violence in Syria showed a "monstrous disregard for civilians' lives by all parties to the conflict."
Rebels demanding the removal of Assad and the government troops opposing them control separate parts of Aleppo, and portions of the surrounding province are in the hands of numerous other fighters, including members of al-Qaida and the Islamic State terrorist group.