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Putin and Assad condemn foreign military presence in Syria

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) meets President of Syria Bashar Al-Assad (L) in Sochi, Russia on 17 May, 2018 [Kremlin Press Office/Anadolu Agency]
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and President Bashar Al-Assad (R) in Sochi, Russia on 17 May 2018 [Kremlin Press Office/Anadolu Agency]

Russian President Vladimir Putin met his Syrian counterpart Bashar Al-Assad in Moscow yesterday. The two leaders criticised the role of foreign military forces in the ongoing conflict in Syria.

During the meeting, Putin praised Assad for recapturing much of the territory he had lost during the civil war which erupted in 2011. He also congratulated him for winning the Syrian presidential election in May, which most within the international community have described as fraudulent.

According to a Kremlin statement, Putin told Assad that "[the opposition] terrorists sustained very serious damage, and the Syrian government, headed by you, controls 90 per cent of the territory."

Assad thanked his Russian counterpart for Moscow's military assistance to Damascus since its intervention in 2015. This has played a major role in pushing back opposition forces and "liberating occupied territories" while halting the "spread of terrorism".

READ: Russia tested 320 types of weapons in Syria

Both men condemned the sanctions imposed on the Syrian regime by the US and EU – including the significant Caesar Sanctions implemented last year – which Assad called "anti-human" and "illegitimate".

Although most of Syria is now under the control of Damascus, there remain pockets of resistance which are held by opposition groups, most prominently in the north of the country. Some of the groups are backed by Turkey, while the US backs the Kurdish militia groups in the north-east and east of Syria.

Assad has persistently expressed his aim to recapture the remaining opposition-held territories. His regime managed to achieve this in the southern province of Daraa earlier this month.

Many predict that Damascus, with Moscow's aerial support, will launch a full-scale offensive on the north-western province of Idlib. With Russian air strikes and regime shelling already hitting the opposition-held civilian areas and Turkey deploying reinforcements to the area, such predictions looks increasingly accurate.

OPINION: With a new offensive on the horizon, Idlib is the Gaza of Syria

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