Putin criticizes presence of foreign military forces in Syria during meeting with Assad

“By our joint efforts, the main overwhelming territory of the Syrian Republic has been liberated,” Putin told Assad.
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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (left) talking with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia on September 13. (Photo: Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (left) talking with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia on September 13. (Photo: Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomed his Syrian counterpart, Bashar al-Assad, to the Kremlin in the Russian capital Moscow on Monday. There the two leaders discussed many issues of mutual interest, including the continued presence of foreign troops in Syria.

Putin began his meeting with Syria’s president by congratulating him first on his recent birthday and then on his reelection over the summer, according to the transcript published on the Kremlin’s website on Tuesday.

“By our joint efforts, the main overwhelming territory of the Syrian Republic has been liberated,” Putin told Assad. “The terrorists have suffered very serious, significant damage, and the Syrian government, headed by you, controls 90 percent of the territory.”

Significant swathes of Syrian territory remain outside the control of Damascus, including the opposition-held northwestern Idlib province, adjacent territories occupied by Turkey and its Syrian militia proxies, and the northeast, which is controlled by Kurdish-led forces. 

In a likely reference to Idlib, Putin said that “hotbeds of resistance on the part of terrorists, who not only control some part of the territory, but also continue to terrorize civilians, still remain.”

He also expressed his opinion that the main problem facing Syria today is the continued presence of foreign forces in the country. This, he told Assad, “does not give you the opportunity to make maximum efforts to consolidate the country and in order to move along the path of its restoration at a rate that would be possible if the entire territory was controlled by a legitimate government.”

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Putin spoke positively about the return of Syrian refugees to the parts of the country controlled by Assad.

“I saw with my own eyes, when I was visiting you at your invitation, how people are actively restoring their homes, actively working to return in the full sense of the word to a peaceful life,” he said. 

According to Putin, economic ties and trade between Russia and Syria are increasing and the two countries are working together in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Russia has delivered Sputnik vaccines to Syria. 

For his part, Assad also praised the cooperation between the Russian and Syrian. The two countries, he said, “have achieved significant results not only in the liberation of the occupied territories seized by militants, in the destruction of terrorism, but also facilitated the return of refugees who were forced to leave their homes and leave their homeland.”

Since terrorism is an international problem, he added, “our armies, I can state, have made a huge contribution to protecting all mankind from this evil.”

Assad also described sanctions against Syria as “anti-human” and “illegitimate.”

Russia invariably claims that its military presence in Syria, unlike that of Turkey or the United States-led coalition, is legitimate since Damascus authorized it.

Russia’s intervention, which began back in September 2015, was decisive for Assad. It secured his hold on power and enabled his forces to go on the offensive against his many armed opponents across the country and recapture large swathes of territory.