MOSCOW – President Vladimir Putin met Bashar al-Assad in Moscow on Monday. He also criticized foreign forces in Syria that operate without a U.N. mandate. This was in a rebuke to the United States of America and Turkey.

Assad’s most powerful ally during the decade-long conflict in Syria, Putin received him in Moscow in 2018 at the Sochi summer home.

Russian’s air force played a crucial role in turning the tide in the Syrian conflict in Assad’s favor. It deployed there in 2015, helping to recover most of the territory that was lost to insurgents.

However, large parts of Syria are still under state control. There are Turkish forces in the north and northwest, the last bastion of anti-Assad rebels, and U.S. troops in the Kurdish-controlled northeast and northeast.

Assad has not traveled abroad since the start of the conflict in 2011..

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Putin told Assad that foreign forces in Syria without a U.N. decision were a hindrance to its consolidation, the Kremlin said. Putin also congratulated him for winning a fourth term as president in May’s election. According to a Kremlin statement,

“Terrorists suffered very serious damage and the Syrian government, led by you, controls 90% of the territories.” Putin stated. The Kremlin stated that Assad thanked Putin for humanitarian assistance to Syria and his efforts to stop the “spread” of terrorism. He praised the “liberation of occupied territories” in Syria by the Russian and Syrian armies.

Assad also referred to the “antihuman” or “illegitimate sanctions imposed on Syria by certain nations. The United States imposed sanctions on Syria last year. They claimed they were meant to force Assad to end the war and to agree to a political settlement.

Syrian state news agency SANA said the two leaders discussed cooperation between the Syrian and Russian armies in “combating terrorism and completing the liberation of the land that is still under the control of terrorist organizations”.

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