On Tuesday, it was announced that Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Syrian President Bashar Assad, who had arrived in Russia on an unannounced visit, in the Kremlin.
When they met, Putin congratulated Assad on his victory in the presidential election in May, noting that Syrian residents now associate the return to normal life with their president.
“I am very glad to welcome you to Moscow again. And first of all I would like to congratulate you on your recent birthday,” Putin said at the beginning of the meeting.
“And, of course, on a personal note – regarding the very good result of the presidential elections. The results indicate that people trust you and, despite all the difficulties of previous years and the tragedies of previous years, they still associate the process of recovery and return to a normal life with you,” the Russian president said.
The Russian president noted that hotbeds of terrorism still remain in Syria.
“Unfortunately, there are still hotbeds of resistance from terrorists who not only control some part of the territory, but also continue to terrorise civilians. Nevertheless, refugees are actively returning to the liberated areas. I saw with my own eyes when I was in Syria at your invitation, as people are actively restoring their homes, actively working to return in the full sense of the word to a peaceful life,” Putin said.
Putin has also pointed out that joint efforts of Russia and Syria dealt a blow to terrorists and “terrorists have suffered very serious, significant damage” while the Syrian government, headed by Assad “controls 90% of the territory”.
Additionally, Vladimir Putin noted that the illegal presence of foreign armed forces in Syria is preventing progress on the path towards consolidation of the country.
“The main problem, in my opinion, is that, after all, foreign armed forces are present in certain territories of the country without a United Nations decision and without your consent, which clearly contradicts international law and does not give you the opportunity to make maximum efforts to consolidate the country, in order to move along the path of its restoration at a pace that would be possible if the entire territory was controlled by the legitimate government,” Putin said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the Syrian leader is doing a lot to establish a dialogue with opponents and expressed the hope that the process will continue.
In turn, Syrian President Bashar Assad said that Syria and Russia have “achieved significant results not only in the liberation of the occupied territories seized by militants and in the destruction of terrorism, but also facilitated the return of refugees who were forced to leave their homes”.
“Considering the fact that international terrorism knows no borders, and spreads like an infection throughout the world, our armies, I can state, have made a huge contribution to protecting all mankind from this evil,” Syria’s president added.
Also, Vladimir Putin stressed that trade between Russia and Syria had increased 250 percent.
In addition to issues of military-political cooperation, the presidents discussed the COVID-19 pandemic. Russia has provided Syria with Sputnik V and Sputnik Light coronavirus vaccines to combat the pandemic, Vladimir Putin said.
Since 2015, Russia has been supporting the Syrian authorities in the fight against terrorist organisations. In addition, Russia acts as the guarantor of a ceasefire agreement between Damascus and opposition groups supported by the United States and allies.
Russia established an air base in the Syrian coastal city of Khmeimim in September 2015, which supported the Syrian military’s operations against a broad array of terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda* (aka al-Nusra) and Daesh*, among others.
The US and its allies have been conducting a ground military operation in war-torn Syria since 2014, supporting the rebels and the Syrian Democratic Forces. The Syrian government and its allies, Russia and Iran, have repeatedly slammed the US and Turkey for keeping troops deployed in the country illegally. Damascus and Moscow have also accused Washington of stealing Syria’s national resources and demanded that they cease such activities, but to no avail.