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Putin's visit to Syria aims to boost coordination for political solution

By Mu Xuequan (Xinhua)    07:32, December 12, 2017


Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (2nd L, Front) and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin(2nd R) view a military parade in the Russian-run Hmeimim Air Base in the coastal city of Latakia, Syria, on Dec. 11, 2017. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad met with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Syria on Monday, the presidential media office reported. During Putin's visit, he ordered his defense minister to prepare for withdrawing the Russian forces, according to the report. (Xinhua/Syrian Presidency)

DAMASCUS, Dec. 11 (Xinhua) -- The surprising and rare visit of Russian President Vladimir Putinto Syriaon Monday aimed at boosting coordination between Russia and Syria for the upcoming stage of political solution, analysts say.

On Sunday morning, people woke up to the surprising news of Putin's meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the Russian-run Hmeimim airbase in the coastal city of Latakia in northwestern Syria.

Later on, videos and photos of the rare visit, the first visit of Putin to Syria during the six-year war, went online as well.

During the brief visit, Putin met with Assad and inspected the Russian forces there, ordering "significant" withdrawal of Russian troops from Syria.

Still, the Russians will keep their presence in the Hmeimim Air Base in Latakia and the naval base they have for long controlled in the nearby coastal city of Tartus.

However, Putin noted that "if the terrorists raised their heads again, we will deal them a blow they haven't seen before," meaning that his forces will be ready to strike again.

"As for withdrawing the Russian forces, it was expected because their entry to Syria was due to the situation on the ground when the terror groups were controlling large swathes of territories in Syria," Hmaidi Abdullah, a Syrian political analyst and a writer, told Xinhua.

Abdullah noted that "Today there is a recognition that 90 percent of the inhabited Syrian territories are under the government control, meaning that our need today for large numbers of Russian forces is unjustified."

"So the Russian forces came in large numbers to achieve a certain mission and when this mission was largely achieved, there is no need for a large number of Russian forces here," he said.

Abdullah said on the military level, the decision is logical, adding that the political one is more important.

"True that the visit held military meaning, which was about celebrating the victory on the terror groups, but I think that the visit aimed primarily to coordinate stances between the Russian and Syrian sides ahead of Putin's visit to Egyptand Turkey," Abdullah said.

Following his visit to Syria, Putin flew to Egypt, where he met with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, during which both sides discussed wide-range thorny issues, including the Syrian one.

On Syria, Sisi said they agreed on supporting the UN-sponsored negotiations to reach a political solution to the Syrian crisis.

Putin said he agreed with Sisi to enhance cooperation to boost a long-term solution in Syria, hailing Egypt's support to Russia's initiative for a national Syrian dialogue.

Also, Putin visited Turkey on the same day, where he met with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and discussed the peace process in Syria.

Putin said that almost all territory had been freed in Syria, adding that "in case of the resumption of some terror hotbeds of resistance, we will take effective countermeasures."

As for the political settlement, the Russian president made it clear that the Syrian Constitution would be discussed during the National Dialogue Congress in Sochi scheduled for the beginning of the next year.

Both Russia and Turkey are the guarantors of the de-escalation zones' deal that was implemented in four hot zones in Syria this year.

Maher Ihsan, another political analyst, also said that the visit of Putin to Syria and his meeting with Assad meant to discuss the prospects of the political solution ahead of Putin's visits to the regional powers of Turkey and Egypt.

Ihsan believed that Russia is pinning big hopes on the Sochi meeting on Syria, unlike the currently-underway intra-Syrian talks in Geneva, which is not believed to will produce any solution to the country's long-running conflict.

"That is why Putin came personally to discuss with Assad the next move," Ihsan said.

Putin's visit also comes days after President Assad visited Sochi and met with the Russian leader there.

At the time, the visit was seen as a show of victory after the Syrian army defeated the Islamic State (IS) in their main strongholds in the eastern province of Deir al-Zour, where the Russian air power was crucial in defeating IS in that area and almost all of the desert region in eastern Syria.

The Russian forces entered Syria in 2015 to shore up the forces of Assad in their fight against the rebels.

The backing of the Russian forces and air power enabled the Syrian army to retrieve key areas across the country, such as rebel-held areas in Aleppo, the ancient city of Palmyra in central Syria as well as the eastern city of Deir al-Zour from the Islamic State.


(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Liang Jun, Bianji)

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