Putin meets Assad, takes swipe at U.S. and Turkish forces in Syria

MOSCOW – President Vladimir Putin received the Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad in Moscow on Monday for the first time since 2015 and criticized foreign forces who are in Syria without a UN mandate, the Kremlin said in a reprimand from the USA and Turkey.

Assad’s most powerful ally in the decades-long Syrian conflict, Putin last received the Syrian leader in Russia in 2018 at his summer residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

The Russian Air Force played a crucial role in turning the tide of the Syrian conflict in Assad’s favor after being stationed there in 2015.

However, substantial parts of Syria remain outside state control, with Turkish troops stationed in much of the north and northwest – the last major bastion of the anti-Assad rebels – and US troops in the Kurdish-controlled east and northeast.

Assad, who was also supported by Iran during the conflict, has made only a few trips abroad since the beginning of the war in 2011.

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Putin told Assad that foreign troops in Syria without a UN decision are an obstacle to his consolidation, the Kremlin said. Putin also congratulated him on his fourth term in the presidential election in May.

“Terrorists have suffered very serious damage and the Syrian government under your leadership controls 90 percent of the territories,” Putin said, according to a Kremlin statement.

The Kremlin said Assad thanked the Russian leader for providing humanitarian aid to Syria and for his efforts to stop the “spread of terrorism”.

He praised the success of the Russian and Syrian armies in “liberating the occupied territories” of Syria.

Assad also referred to the sanctions imposed on Syria by some nations as “anti-human” and “illegitimate” sanctions.

The United States tightened sanctions against Syria last year, saying it aims to force Assad to end the war and agree to a political solution.

Syrian state news agency SANA said the two leaders had discussed cooperation between the Syrian and Russian armies to “fight terrorism and complete the liberation of the country still under the control of terrorist organizations”.

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