Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced that large-scale military operations by the Russian armed forces in Syria are over, and has stressed on the need for a political solution and settlement for the conflict in the country.
Speaking at the final session of the 16th meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club – which was also attended by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, Jordanian King Abdullah II, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte – Putin stated: “Indeed, large-scale combat operations are over but it is impossible to reach a final solution through military activities, whatever result they may yield. So, today it is time for political settlement and this is what we are steadily doing.”
Putin also said that Syria, which descended into civil war following Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s crackdown on protests in 2011, has almost been liberated and purged of opposition forces. He added that Russia has made significant efforts to establish a constitutional committee in Syria, claiming that both the regime and opposition groups are part of it. “This idea, by the way, emerged here, in Sochi, during a large-scale event that was attended by delegates representing both the government and practically all opposition forces.”
Throughout the past few years of the conflict, regime forces – backed by Russian aerial support and more recently ground troops and special forces – have regained vast amounts of territory from opposition groups and re-established much of its control over the country. Regime, Russian and Iranian forces have been besieging and waging an all-out air and land assault against the last opposition stronghold of Idlib province in the north-west of the country since May, and despite a current ceasefire, capturing the area remains one of their primary goals.
Despite the creation of a constitutional committee and the Russian calls for a political solution rather than continued military action, there are fears that any settlement will work towards the interests of the regime and that those of the opposition will be side-lined due to Russia’s alignment with Al-Assad.