What did the presidents of Russia and Syria talk about in Moscow?

Mikhail Kotlyar

The leaders met for the first time since January 2020, wh-en Putin visited Dama-scus. At the talks, the R-ussian president named the main problem of Syria – the presence of other countries’ troops on its t-erritory, illegitimate from the point of view of international law. Assad agre-ed that some states interfere with the political pro-cesses in Syria and its re-construction after the war.

Russian President Vladi-mir Putin on Monday, Sep-tember 13, met with his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad, the Kremlin press service reported . Assad’s visit to Moscow was not announced in advance, it became known after the fact.

First of all, Putin congratulated his colleague on his recent birthday (Septe-mber 11 – Gazeta.ru) and his victory in the presidential elections in May this year. This is the first meeting of the two leaders since Assad’s re-election to a new term. The Russian President stated that Moscow and Damascus have done a tremendous amount of work to counter terrorism. “Our joint efforts have liberated the main, overwhelming territory of the Syrian Republic. Terrorists have suffered very serious, significant damage, and the Syrian government, headed by you, controls 90 percent of the territory, ”Putin said.

The head of state also formulated the main, in his opinion, the current problem of Syria: the presence in certain regions of the Middle East country of the armed forces of other countries, not sanctioned by either the UN or the Syrian government. This, according to Putin, “clearly contradicts international law” and does not give Damascus the opportunity to “make maximum efforts to consolidate the country” for its further restoration.

The Russian leader not-ed that despite the active fi-ght against terrorism, extre-mist gangs still operate in certain territories of Syria and continue to terrorize ci-vilians. However, even un-der these conditions, refu-gees are returning to the liberated areas. “I saw with my own eyes, when I was visiting you at your invitation, how people are actively rebuilding their homes,” the president recalled.

Putin also touched upon bilateral relations. In the first half of 2021, trade between Russia and Syria grew 3.5 times, Moscow is actively helping Damascus in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic – the supply of Sputnik V and Sputnik Light vaccines has begun to the Middle East country.

Assad, in turn, called his visit to Moscow a great honor. He agreed with the significant achievements of Russia and Syria in the fight against terrorism, the restoration of the Syrian economy, and thanked the Russians for the humanitarian assistance provided. However, according to the Syrian leader, over the past three years, the political processes for the final stabilization of the situation in Syria have almost completely stopped. “There are, of course, certain reasons for this. There are certain states that in every possible way destructively affect the possibility of conducting political processes. There are other factors, but we understand them perfectly and are trying to do our best to solve these pressing problems, ”Assad said.

He recalled that some countries have imposed sa-nctions on Damascus, whi-ch he called “anti-human, anti-state and anti-legitimate.” Against this background, Assad separately expressed gratitude to the Russian Foreign Ministry , which protects the principles of international law.

According to official figures, Putin and Assad are meeting in person for the first time in more than a year and a half – the last face-to-face talks took place during the Russian president’s visit to Damascus in January 2020. After that, Putin spoke with Assad several times by telephone and video link.

Bashar al-Assad has ruled Syria since 2000. At the end of May 2021, he won the next presidential election, gaining more than 95% of the vote with a turnout of 78%. In Europe and the United States, the elections were called unfair and not free. The head of EU diplomacy, Josep Borrell, said that the plebiscite did not meet the criteria for a democratic vote and did not contribute to the settlement of the conflict in the country.

The civil war in Syria has been going on for over 10 years. It is considered to be the beginning of the ma-ss protests against the As-sad regime in March 2011. Political analysts are of the opinion that Syria should have followed the path of the “Arab Spring” in which the governments of Tunisia and Egypt were replaced. Over the next three years, the rebels formed a paramilitary resistance to As-sad’s government forces. In 2014, Islamic State (organization banned in Russia) gangs began to infiltrate from Iraq into Syria. By 2015, terrorists controlled almost half of the country’s territory, but could not take Damascus due to the start of the anti-terrorist operation in Moscow.

The armed forces of Russia, US, Turkey, Iran and many other countries are openly present in Syria in the form of private military companies. By the end of 2017, the positions of ISIS in Syria have noticeably weakened, both Mosc-ow and Washington claim to have won over them. The war in Syria is considered the deadliest conflict of the 21st century: according to approximate data, the death toll in it by the spring of 2021 exceeded 600 thousand people, about 5.5 million people fled the country.

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