Military operations against terrorists in Syria are coming to an end, with the focus shifting to a search for a political solution, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said as he hosted his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad in Sochi.
Putin met Assad on Monday ahead of a trilateral summit with the leaders of Turkey and Iran aimed at re-booting the peace process in the conflict-torn country.
During the meeting, Putin was full of praise for the Syrian President and his work fighting the Islamic State.
“Syria is striving in the fight against terrorist(s) … The Syrian people are going through very difficult trials and are gradually approaching the final, unavoidable rout of terrorists,” Putin said, according to Russian news agency Sputnik.
“We still have a long way to go before we achieve a complete victory over terrorists. But as far as our joint work in fighting terrorism on the territory of Syria is concerned, this military operation is indeed wrapping up,” Putin said.
In the four-hour Assad-Putin talks, the Kremlin reported that Assad assented to the proposal for a Syrian national dialogue conference, likely to be held in December.
Putin hailed Assad’s apparent readiness to cooperate with all parties seeking a peaceful settlement of the Syrian crisis.
“I think that now the most important thing, of course, is to move on the political questions, and I note with satisfaction your readiness to work with all those who want peace and a solution (to the conflict).”
The Kremlin statement quoted Putin as saying he would be phoning US President Donald Trump on Tuesday, along with leaders of other countries involved in the Syrian conflict.
It’s the first time the two leaders have met since October 2015, just a month after Russia came to the aid of the embattled dictator with a series of airstrikes against rebels opposing Assad’s regime.
Putin and his government have been one of the chief supporters of the Syrian President’s government, both militarily and in helping negotiate ceasefires in the country’s long-running civil war.
Hostilities between Assad and the Syrian rebels began in March 2011.
The leaders of the US, the UK, France, Germany and the EU have all called for Assad to step down since the beginning of the bloody civil conflict and the issue of Assad’s future has been a stumbling block in previous peace talks.