Russian President Vladimir Putin received his Syrian counterpart, Bashar al Assad, in Moscow on Wednesday, in light of the Kremlin’s intensified efforts to achieve reconciliation between Ankara and Damascus and to assert its diplomatic weight despite the diplomatic isolation it faces due to its invasion of Ukraine.
On Wednesday, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov announced the end of the bilateral summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar al Assad.
Peskov pointed out that the summit talks lasted about three hours, according to the Kremlin, the two leaders started the talks at the Kremlin, after 17:00 Moscow time.
According to Kremlin, the talks took place in two formats, with the participation of delegations, and then face to face.
Peskov had made it clear earlier that Russian-Syrian relations will be at the forefront of the discussion topics.
The two presidents also discussed cooperation in the context of the reconstruction of Syria after the war, and the continuation of the Syrian settlement, in this manner, including all aspects, with an emphasis on the absolute priority of Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and they also touched on the issue of Syrian-Turkish relations.
These efforts come at a time when diplomatic cards are being widely shuffled in the Middle East with the restoration of diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia under the auspices of Beijing.
For the Kremlin, organizing a reconciliation process between Türkiye and Syria, whose relations began to deteriorate since 2011, will show Moscow’s diplomatic weight despite the isolation it faces from Western countries since its attack on Ukraine.
The meeting of the two leaders began at around 14:00 GMT, according to scenes broadcast on Russian television.
A number of ministers participated in this meeting, to be followed by a bilateral meeting between the two presidents.
“We’re in constant contact and our relations are developing,” Putin said at the beginning of the meeting, welcoming the important results achieved by Moscow and Damascus in the fight against international terrorism.
For his part, Assad expressed his support for the Moscow-led military operation in Ukraine, stressing that “this visit will pave the way for a new phase in Syrian-Russian relations at all levels”.
The Syrian President also affirmed that his country is with the dialogue that leads to achieving the interest of the Syrian people and the unity and safety of their lands.
According to a Syrian presidential statement following the talks session that brought together the Syrian President and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, on Wednesday, in Moscow, Assad affirmed that Syria has always supported dialogue if it would lead to the realization of the interests of the Syrian people and the unity and integrity of the Syrian lands, and lead to clear and specific results, foremost of which is continuity, by combating terrorism and the exit of the illegal foreign forces present on its soil.
Assad and Putin also discussed, during an expanded session of talks, a wide range of political and economic files, and the two leaders discussed bilateral relations, joint cooperation in all its forms, and recent developments on the regional and international arenas.
On the bilateral issue, the talks dealt with the strategic relations between the two countries, which are based on common principles, interests and values that unite them.
They also discussed expanding economic and trade cooperation between the two countries.
The two presidents discussed the Russian military operation in Ukraine, and Assad renewed Syria’s position in support of Russia’s right to defend its national security, while President Putin considered that the Russian military operation is a battle for existence, and that the West tried to destabilize Russia’s political and economic stability, but Russia was able to adapt to the above, and it even achieved economic growth despite the war.
It was also agreed on the importance of strengthening the existing cooperation between the two countries at the United Nations and all other international forums, with an emphasis on stressing that Syria appreciates Russia’s stand in the face of attempts to put pressure on Damascus through what the West calls the chemical weapons file in Syria.
Regionally, the two presidents affirmed their welcome to the announcement by Saudi Arabia and Iran to resume diplomatic relations between the two countries as a step that reflects positively on the region and the world.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday that relations between Türkiye and Syria will certainly be affected in one way or another by the discussions between Putin and Assad.
After he came to power in the early 2000s, Erdogan and Assad established friendly relations, after decades of tension between their two countries.
However, after the start of the war in Syria, which since 2011 has left more than 500,000 dead and millions displaced, Ankara has supported armed groups seeking to overthrow the Syrian regime, which is backed by Moscow and Tehran.
Despite their divergent interests in Syria and Türkiye’s membership in NATO, Putin and Erdogan have cooperated extensively in recent years, which explains Moscow’s role in trying to achieve Turkish-Syrian reconciliation.
Diplomats from Russia, Türkiye, Syria and Iran are scheduled to meet this week in Moscow to prepare for a meeting of their countries’ foreign ministers ahead of a possible presidential summit.
At the end of December, the Turkish and Syrian defense ministers met in Moscow with their Russian counterpart, for the first time since 2011.
In recent months, Erdogan has expressed several times his willingness to meet Assad to mend relations.
“There can be no rancor in politics,” the Turkish president said in November.
However, there are thorny issues that must still be resolved, especially with regard to the Turkish military presence in northern Syria, where Ankara has carried out many attacks since 2016 against jihadist and Kurdish groups.
Nevertheless, there may be a rapprochement due to the earthquake that struck Türkiye and Syria last February, killing more than 50,000 people and helping Damascus to emerge somewhat from its diplomatic isolation.
Erdogan and Assad also share animosity toward the Kurdish groups that control northeastern Syria and are supported by the West against the Islamic State.
Damascus strongly condemned the visit made in early March by the US Chief of Staff to northeastern Syria, which is controlled by the Kurdish forces.