Putin meets Assad ahead of Syria talks with Turkey & Iran


—Photo by AFP

SOCHI, Russia: President Vladimir Putin said the Russian army had “saved Syria as a state” after meeting with leader Bashar al-Assad, as Syrian regime forces take an upper hand over rebels and the Islamic State group.

Monday’s talks came during an announced “working visit” by Assad to the Black Sea resort of Sochi, ahead of a summit between Putin and the leaders of Turkey and Iran on Wednesday aimed at re-booting the Syrian peace process.

“As for our joint work in the fight against terrorism in Syria, this military operation is coming to an end,” Putin said, according to a transcript published on the Kremlin’s website.

The Russian leader praised Assad and predicted terrorism would suffer an “inevitable” defeat in the

“Thanks to the Russian army, Syria has been saved as a state. Much has been done to stabilise the situation
in Syria,” the transcript said.

“It is in our interest to advance the political process… we don’t want to look back and we are ready for dialogue
with all those who want to come up with a political settlement,” Assad said in translated comments.

Putin said he would consult world leaders on his talks with Assad, including with US president Donald Trump in a telephone call expected on Tuesday.

The Russian army’s Chief of General Staff, Valery Gerasimov, told Russian news agencies that “despite the fact that there remains a raft of unresolved problems” the military stage “is coming to its logical conclusion”.

Putin will Wednesday host Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iran’s Hassan Rouhani for the first in a series
of summits on the peace process, ahead of parallel UN-led talks in Geneva set for November 28.

The meeting — the first such three-way summit between the trio — comes as Ankara, Moscow and Tehran
cooperate with increasing intensity on ending the over six-year civil war in Syria that has left 330,000 dead and millions homeless.

The cooperation comes despite Turkey still officially being on an opposite side of the Syria conflict from Russia
and Iran, which are key Assad backers.

“Assad’s visit…shows that there was a need to relay the Syrian leadership’s position on a future settlement to
the Kremlin, and that (Assad) was interested in the forthcoming summit with the presidents of Iran and Turkey,” said Russian political analyst Azhdar Kurtov.—AFP