Putin to Host Syrian Leader Assad at Kremlin


Syrian President Bashar Assad (L.) and Mikhail Bogdanov, deputy minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia and special representative of the President of Russia for the Middle East, review an honor guard during a welcome ceremony upon Assad’s arrival at Vnukovo Airport in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, March 14. (SANA via AP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to host Syrian leader Bashar Assad for talks in the Kremlin on Wednesday that are expected to focus on rebuilding Syria after a devastating civil war and mending the country’s ties with Turkey.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the two leaders would talk about “postwar reconstruction and the continuation of the peace process in all of its aspects with an emphasis on the absolute priority of Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Wednesday’s meeting comes on the anniversary of Syria’s 12-year uprising-turned-civil war that has killed nearly 500,000 people and displaced half of the country’s prewar population.

Russia has waged a military campaign in Syria since September 2015, teaming up with Iran to allow Assad’s government to fight back armed opposition groups and to reclaim control over most of the country. While Russia has concentrated its military resources in Ukraine, Moscow has maintained its military foothold in Syria and kept its warplanes and troops there.

Moscow has also provided robust political support to Assad at the United Nations and actively mediated to help repair his government’s ties with regional powers.

Some Arab countries that had called in the past for the downfall of Assad have sent aid following the earthquake and some have called for dialogue with Damascus and for bringing back Syria to the 22-member Arab League more than a decade after its membership was suspended over the crackdown in the early months of the uprising that turned into war.

As part of the ongoing rapprochement, the foreign ministers of Egypt and Jordan have recently made their first visit to Damascus since the conflict began in March 2011 and met with Assad.

Prior to a deadly Feb. 6 earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria, killing more than 50,000 including over 6,000 in Syria, Russia had been mediating talks between the two quake-ravaged countries.

Turkey and Syria have been on opposite sides in Syria’s civil war as Ankara has backed armed opposition groups that control an enclave in northwestern Syria. Syria has demanded that Turkey withdraw from areas it controls in northern Syria in order for Damascus to normalize its relations with Ankara.

In December, Moscow hosted surprise talks between the Syrian and Turkish defense ministers. Arab media reported that one of the main topics that Assad will discuss with Putin during their meeting on Wednesday is reconciliation between Syria and Turkey.

Asked if Putin’s talks with Assad could play a role in restoring Syria’s ties with Turkey, Peskov responded that “the issue of the Syrian-Turkish relations will undoubtedly be part of the talks’ agenda.”

Even though Turkey has backed Syrian opposition fighters in the north, Ankara and Damascus share dismay of the U.S.-backed Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in Syria’s northeast. Turkey-backed opposition fighters have clashed with the SDF in the past, accusing them of being an arm of Turkey’s outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. The PKK has for decades waged an insurgency within Turkey against the government in Ankara.

Assad’s government has cast the SDF as a secessionist force that has been pilfering the country’s wealth while controlling Syria’s major oil fields.

The Syrian, Turkish and Russian deputy foreign ministers as well as a senior adviser to their Iranian counterpart were expected to hold talks Wednesday and Thursday in Moscow to discuss “counterterrorism efforts” in Syria, although Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister Ayman Sousan was quoted by pro-government media as saying that the meeting “is still under discussion.”

To Read The Full Story

Are you already a subscriber?
Click to log in!