Russian President Vladimir Putin has met with Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad in Moscow to discuss military cooperation against the remaining rebel-held areas in Syria, state media in Damascus reported on September 14.
Russia, along with Iran, has provided crucial military support to Assad in Syria’s 10-year conflict, which began with a crackdown on anti-government protesters in March 2011. More than 400,000 people have since been killed and millions displaced.
Russia joined the conflict in September 2015, tipping the balance of power in favor of Assad, whose forces now control much of the country. However, significant parts of Syria remain out of Assad’s control, with Turkish forces deployed in much of the north and northwest — the last major bastion of anti-Assad fighters — and U.S.-backed forces in the Kurdish-controlled east and northeast.
Hundreds of Russian troops are deployed across Syria, where Moscow has a military air base in the coastal city of Latakia. Russia also has a sizable naval contingent based at the Syrian port of Tartus, in support of Russian air and ground operations in the country.
Putin and Assad met on September 13, their first meeting since holding talks in the Syrian capital in January 2020. Syrian state television said the two leaders were joined by Syria’s foreign minister and Russia’s defense minister.
“Terrorists have sustained serious, significant damage, and the Syrian government, headed by you, controls 90 percent of the territory,” the Russian president said, according to the Kremlin.
Assad hailed what he called a success of the Russian and Syrian armies in “liberating occupied territories” of Syria.
Russia, Syria, and Iran often refer to any armed opponents of the Syrian government as “terrorists.”
In recent weeks, Syrian opposition activists said that Russian warplanes have been carrying out strikes in the northwestern province of Idlib — the last major rebel stronghold in the war-torn country.
Last week, areas held by rebels in the southern city of Daraa came under government control following a siege by forces loyal to Assad.