Russian President Vladimir Putin told his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad in a new year’s greeting that Russia will continue supporting Syria’s efforts to defend its sovereignty, Reuters quoted the Kremlin as saying on Saturday.
Putin stressed that Russia would “continue to render every assistance to Syria in the protection of state sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity, in the promotion of a political settlement process, as well as in efforts to restore the national economy."
Earlier this month Putin ordered the Russian forces in Syria to start withdrawing from the country, but said Russia would keep its Hmeymim air base in Syria’s Latakia governorate as well as its naval facility at Tartous “on a permanent basis”.
Russia first launched air strikes in Syria in September 2015 in its biggest Middle East intervention in decades, turning the tide of the conflict in Assad’s favour.
Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011 when the Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.
Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and more than 10 million displaced, according to UN officials.
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