Updated-Putin: We will continue supporting the Syrian government in the fight against terrorism

Moscow, SANA – Russian President Vladimir Putin affirmed that Russia will continue combating terrorist organizations in Syria, stressing that the Syrian people are the ones to decide their own future.

During a ceremony on Thursday awarding the Russian forces involved in the Russian military operation in Syria, Putin said “The decision on the withdrawal of a substantial part of our military personnel and equipment [from Syria] has been coordinated with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad who was informed in advance about our plans and supported them.”

He explained that the amount of work handled by Russian aircraft has dropped significantly after the agreement on cessation of hostilities was reached, adding that the number of sorties decreased three times and in this connection, the aviation group created earlier in Syria became redundant from the military point of view.

He however affirmed that Russia will continue providing Syria with military and intelligence support.

“Of course, we will continue to support the Syrian legitimate government. It will be financial aid, arms supplies, military training… It will be intelligence support, aid in the planning of operations, as well as direct support — the use of the Russian Aerospace Forces,” said President Putin.

He went on saying that Russian troops that will remain in Hmeimim air base will be protected, affirming that “no one has the right to violate Syria’s sovereign airspace.”

He made it clear that Russia will use its air defense systems in Syria against any targets that are a threat to its military personnel.

“All partners have been notified and are aware that our air defense systems will be deployed against any targets that we will consider to be a threat for Russian service personnel. I stress that these will be any targets,” he clarified.

Putin recalled that Russia began its military operation in Syria in September 2015, according to international standards and fully legitimate request from the Syrian state and its president, with the aim of supporting the legitimate struggle of the Syrian Arab Army against terrorist organizations.

“Strenuous combat efforts turned the tide. We prevented the terrorist tumor from growing. We destroyed the bandits’ shelters, their arms and ammunition depots and blocked the routes of oil smuggling that had been the main source of financing. We have carried out tremendous work to bolster Syria’s legitimate authorities and statehood,” he said.

The Syrian army, he added, is now “not only capable of stopping the terrorists, but also of mounting successful offensive operations against them. The Syrian army has taken the strategic initiative and it keeps regaining its land from terrorist groups.”

The Russian President continued saying that “The most important thing is that we have created conditions for the peace talks, we have managed to establish positive cooperation with the United States, as well as a number of other countries, with those opposition forces in Syria which really want to stop the war and find an only possible political solution to the conflict.”

He pointed out that the battles are still going on in the vicinity of the ancient city of Palmyra, which will be restored to the Syrian people and the whole world.

“I hope that this pearl of the civilization will be returned to the Syrian people,” he said.

Putin highlighted that Russia may at any time enhance its force in Syria.

“If needed, Russia can boost its air group in the region in literally a few hours to a size corresponding with the situation and use the whole arsenal of our opportunities.

“We would not like to do that as military escalation is not our choice, that’s why we rely on the common sense of all parties, on the commitment of the [Damascus] authorities and the opposition to the peace process,” Putin said.

He praised President al-Assad’s constructive position, saying “We see his restraint, sincere striving for peace and readiness for compromise and dialogue.”

He added that his country has said that will continue work for a political settlement in Syria, reiterating that the Syrians alone can decide the future of their country.

He warned that the groups that violate the cessation of hostilities in Syria will automatically be excluded from the list of which Russia and US agreed upon.

M. al-Frieh/H. Said

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