President Vladimir Putin on Monday met with Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad in Moscow for the first time since they last held a summit in Syrian capital January last year and in rebuke of U.S and Turkey condemned foreign troops operating in Syria without a U.N mandate.
The Monday night meeting between the two presidents centred on discussions surrounding cooperation between their militaries and how to gain control of the last rebel-held areas in Syria.
Putin has been Assad’s most powerful ally in the decade-conflict in Syria.
In 2015, Russia deployed its air force to the war— a move which played a critical role in turning the tide of the Syrian conflict in Assad’s favour, helping him recover most territory lost to insurgents.
But significant parts of Syria remain out of state control, with Turkish forces deployed in much of the north and northwest – the last major bastion of anti-Assad rebels – and U.S. forces in the Kurdish-controlled east and northeast.
Assad has made only a few trips abroad since the war began in 2011.
Speaking at the meeting, Assad was quoted by the Syrian State TV as saying“I am happy to meet you in Moscow, six years after our joint operations to fight terrorism.”
Putin then threw a jab at the U.S and Turkey , telling Assad that foreign forces in Syria without a U.N. decision were a hindrance to its consolidation, the Kremlin said.
“Terrorists sustained very serious damage and the Syrian government, headed by you, controls 90 percent of the territories.
“The main problem, in my view, is that foreign armed forces remain in certain regions of the country without the approval of the United Nations and without your permission,” the Kremlin statement added.
However, he congratulated the Syrian leader on winning a fourth term in office earlier this year and lauded what he called the success of Russian and Syrian armies in “liberating occupied territories” of Syria.
Assad also described as “antihuman” and “illegitimate” sanctions imposed by some nations on Syria.
The Syrian presidency said the two leaders were joined in their talks by Syria’s Foreign Minister Faisal al-Meqdad and Russia’s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu.
In a statement, it said the two sides discussed the importance of reaching political agreements “between Syrians and without any foreign interference.”