Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that all foreign troops should leave Syria when the war is over, including Russian forces, if the Syrian government asks them to.
Russia entered the Syrian civil war in 2015 to back its longtime ally President Bashar Assad, helping the government retake most of the territory held by rebels. Russia currently operates an air base and a naval base in Syria.
The Kremlin has criticized US military involvement in Syria, saying it is not authorized by the United Nations or by the Syrian government.
Speaking at an energy conference in Moscow, Putin said that all foreign troops should leave Syria when hostilities cease. Asked if Russia would be willing to leave as well, Putin said Russia would withdraw its troops if the Syrian government asked it to.
Russia announced last week that it would boost security measures in Syria following the downing of a Russian military plane by an S-200 missile, in a mistake that Moscow blamed on nearby Israeli planes.
On Tuesday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told Putin in televised remarks that four S-300 launchers along with radars and support vehicles had been delivered to Syrian troops.
Both Israel and the US have protested the decision to supply Syria with the S-300, which could complicate ongoing Israeli efforts to keep Iran from deepening its military presence in Syria and to thwart the transfer of weapons in Syria to Hezbollah.
Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes against Syrian and Iranian targets in Syria over the last several years, with fighter jets going nearly unchallenged by the country’s air defenses — though an F-16 was downed by a Syrian anti-aircraft missile in February in what the IDF later said was the result of a professional error by the pilots.