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Wednesday, March 20, 2019, 11:44
Russian defense minister meets al-Assad in Syria
By Xinhua
Wednesday, March 20, 2019, 11:44 By Xinhua

A handout picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) on March 19, 2019 shows President Bashar al-Assad (right) meeting with the Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoygu (left) in the Syrian capital Damascus. (STRINGER / SANA / AFP)

MOSCOW/DAMASCUS — Russian Defense Minister Sergey Kuzhugetovich Shoygu paid a working visit to Syria under instruction of President Vladimir Putin and held talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday. 

They exchanged views on expanding the possibilities for the voluntary return of refugees and temporarily displaced persons to their places of residence in Syria

Shoygu delivered a message from Putin to al-Assad, and they discussed fighting international terrorism in Syria, various aspects of security in the Middle East and post-conflict settlement, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a press release. 

Al-Assad discussed the situation in Syria's Eastern Euphrates region and Idlib Province with Shoygu, state news agency SANA reported. 

Both sides agreed to continue joint work to find suitable solutions to the issues of Idlib, the last major rebel stronghold in Syria, and the Eastern Euphrates River region in eastern Syria, which is largely controlled by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

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They exchanged views on expanding the possibilities for the voluntary return of refugees and temporarily displaced persons to their places of residence in Syria, as well as providing humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people. 

Syria with the support of Russia achieved significant success in the fight against international terrorism, and they saved the Syrian state and created conditions for the return of citizens to a peaceful life, Shoygu told al-Assad. 

"However, not everyone is satisfied with the successes of the Syrian government in restoring a peaceful life. Western countries are trying to minimize any positive changes in Syria and create new obstacles to ending the crisis," Shoygu said.

The visit of Shoygu comes a day after the chiefs of staff of Iran and Iraq visited Syria and held meetings with Syrian Defense Minister Ali Abdullah Ayyoub and then Assad. 

During the meeting with the two officials, Ayyoub said the SDF must embark on reconciliation with the government, or the areas under their control will be retaken by the Syrian army. 

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The Syrian official said the government will completely wrest control over all territory including Idlib sooner or later, through reconciliations or military force. 

The Syrian government has long said it would retrieve Idlib from the ultra-radical rebels. However, a planned military campaign was put on hold late last year when Russia, Iran and Turkey agreed on setting up a demilitarized zone in Idlib.

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