Syria’s Assad arrives in Moscow ahead of meeting with Putin

Kremlin says the two leaders will discuss bilateral ties, ‘prospects for a comprehensive settlement of the situation in and around Syria’

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, listens to Syrian President Bashar Assad during their meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, September 13, 2021. (Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, listens to Syrian President Bashar Assad during their meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, September 13, 2021. (Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin will hold talks with Syria’s leader Bashar Assad in Moscow on Wednesday, the Kremlin said, as relations between Middle East states undergo a realignment.

Russia has been one of Syria’s few allies during its years of war and political isolation.

“Topical issues of further development of Russian-Syrian cooperation in the political, trade, economic and humanitarian spheres, as well as prospects for a comprehensive settlement of the situation in and around Syria will be discussed,” the Kremlin said in a statement on Tuesday.

Assad’s office said he had arrived in Moscow for an official visit during which he would meet with Putin.

In a statement, it said that the Syrian president had been greeted on arrival by Putin’s special representative Mikhail Bogdanov and the Russian ambassador to Damascus Alexander Yefimov.

Assad was accompanied by a “large ministerial delegation,” said the Syrian presidency statement.

Damascus is a staunch ally of Moscow which intervened in the Syrian conflict in 2015 by launching air strikes to support the government’s struggling forces.

With that support, as well as from Iran, Damascus won back much of the territory it had lost in the war’s early stages.

The Syrian civil war has killed around half a million people and displaced millions more since it started in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.

Assad’s government has been politically isolated in the region since the start of the conflict, but he has been receiving calls and aid from Arab leaders after a February 6 earthquake that killed tens of thousands in Turkey and Syria.

Analysts say he could leverage this momentum to bolster regional support.

After the quake, Putin offered Russian aid to Turkey and Syria.

Syria’s war led to strained relations between Damascus and Ankara, which has long supported rebel groups opposed to Assad.

But analysts have said Moscow is trying to bridge the divide between its two allies, united by a common “enemy” — Kurdish forces in northern Syria, described as “terrorists” by Ankara and backed by Washington.

In December, the defense ministers of Russia, Turkey and Syria met in Moscow for the first such talks since the Syrian war began.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, right, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan shake hands after a joint news conference following six-hour talks in the Kremlin, in Moscow, Russia, March 5, 2020. (Presidential Press Service via AP, Pool)

Assad had in January said a Russian-brokered rapprochement with Turkey should aim for “the end of occupation” by Ankara of parts of Syria.

Media reports on Tuesday said ties between Damascus and Ankara would be among the topics for Putin and Assad.

Their meeting also follows the surprise announcement on Friday of a Chinese-brokered restoration of diplomatic ties between the Middle East’s major rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Assad has not visited Moscow since September 2021, when he also met Putin.

Most Popular
read more: