NEW DELHI: Russia’s Defence Minister has said that the country is close to joining forces with the United States in the battered Syrian city of Aleppo.

"Step by step we are getting closer to the situation in which — and I'm only speaking about Aleppo here — we will be able to begin battling together so that there is peace on this territory," Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told Rossiya 24 television.

The statement marks a major shift in Russian and US policy in Syria, with the two countries firmly on opposing sides. Russia supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the US maintains that Assad’s removal is key to restoring peace to the war torn country. The Defence Minister, therefore, was quick to clarify that the potential cooperation is limited thus far to tackling the situation in Aleppo.

"There are many issues there that we are yet to decide on with our American colleagues," he said of Aleppo. "We are now in a very active stage of negotiations with American colleagues."

The United States, on its part, has remained mum on the developments. When asked about the Russian Minister’s statement, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau told reporters in Washington: "We have seen the reports and have nothing to announce ... We remain in close contact (with Russian officials)."

The statement follows negotiations between US and Russian officials on Aleppo in Geneva last thursday, as announced by UN special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura.

Aleppo remains caught in the crossfire between rebels and Syrian forces, with two million civilians trapped. About two weeks ago, insurgents embedded in the eastern part of Aleppo broke a stalemate against Syrian military forces and their Russian allies, effectively blocking government controlled western Aleppo and isolating the entire city. Since then, Russia and Syria have stepped up air bombardments of insurgent-held areas in the battered city. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group, said on Sunday that the destruction was extraordinary even for Aleppo.

Facing pressure, Russia previously proposed three hour halts in fighting, enabling groups to get in much needed humanitarian aid to the trapped civilians. The UN humanitarian chief, Stephen O’Brien, however, said that this time period was insufficient. “When we’re offered three hours, then you have to ask: what could be achieved in those three hours?” he said.

Since then, the Russians, have had to acknowledge that the previous proposal was insufficient, thereby possibly opening the door to longer pauses.