Assad welcomes new Russian bases in Syria after Putin

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The Syrian leader made the remarks during a visit to Moscow, adding that Russia’s presence should become permanent.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said he would welcome any Russian proposals to establish new military bases and increase the number of troops in the country in the Middle East, suggesting that Moscow’s military presence there should be permanent. become.

When Russia intervened in the war in Syria in 2015, four years after protests began in the country, it helped tip the balance in al-Assad’s favor, ensuring the Syrian leader’s survival. despite Western demands that he be impeached.

Al-Assad, who met President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin on Wednesday, supported Moscow’s war in Ukraine and told Russia’s state news agency RIA that Damascus recognizes areas in Ukraine claimed by the Kremlin.

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Syria, al-Assad said, would welcome any Russian proposals to set up new military bases and increase Russian troop numbers — saying they need not be temporary.

We think expanding the Russian presence in Syria is a good thing,” al-Assad told RIA in an interview published Thursday. “Russia’s military presence in any country should not be based on anything temporary.”

“We believe that if Russia has a desire to expand bases or increase their numbers, it is a technical or logistical issue.”

Al-Assad’s years as president were defined by the conflict that began in 2011 with peaceful protests before turning into a multi-sided conflict that has fractured the country and attracted foreign friends and foes alike.

He has recaptured territory from the opposition with the help of Russia and Iran, but all three have been accused of war crimes by human rights groups.

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In addition to Hmeimim Air Base, from which Russia conducts airstrikes in support of al-Assad, Moscow also controls the Tartus naval facility in Syria, the only naval base in the Mediterranean, in use since the days of the Soviet Union.

Russia’s defense ministry said in January that Russia and Syria had reestablished the al-Jarrah military air base in northern Syria for joint use. The small base east of Aleppo was recaptured from ISIL (ISIS) fighters in 2017.

In Moscow, al-Assad thanked Putin for the help Russia had given to Syria after last month’s devastating earthquake.

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Syria stood alongside Russia on the Ukraine issue, al-Assad said.

“Since this is my first visit since the beginning of the special military operation in Ukraine, I want to reiterate the Syrian position in support of this special operation,” al-Assad told Putin, according to a Kremlin transcript.

Syria recognizes the areas of Ukraine seized by Russia as Russian, al-Assad said.

“I’m saying these are Russian territories, and even if the war hadn’t happened, historically these are Russian territories,” he told RIA.

Russia has claimed about a fifth of Ukraine and says the country is now part of Russia. Ukraine says it will fight until all the last Russian soldiers are expelled from Ukraine. The West says the annexation of Ukrainian territory is illegal.

Al-Assad said Russia and Syria plan to sign an economic cooperation agreement in the coming weeks.

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