Defence minister of Russia meets Assad

Defence minister of Russia meets Assad


Moscow — Russia’s defence minister visited Syria on Saturday to meet the country’s leader and inspect the Russian air base there, a high-profile trip intended to underline Moscow’s role in the region.
Sergei Shoigu met with President Bashar Assad in Damascus for talks that focused on cooperation between the two militaries and “some aspects of cooperation in the fight against terrorist groups,” the Russian Defense Ministry said. It said Shoigu held talks with Assad on orders from President Vladimir Putin.

The visit comes a day after President Vladimir Putin suggested that some in the Syrian opposition could join the Cabinet to help advance the stalled peace process.
Shoigu also visited the Hemeimeem air base in the coasvival province of Lattakia, where he met with pilots and inspected their quarters, according to the Defence Ministry’s spokesman, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov.
Russia has conducted an air campaign in Syria since last September, helping Assad’s forces win back some ground. Putin pulled back some of Russia’s warplanes in March in what he described as a move to help encourage peace talks, but the military has maintained a strong presence at Hemeimeem.
A US- and Russian- brokered cease-fire that began on Feb. 27 has helped reduce hostilities, but fierce fighting has continued in many areas, particularly around Aleppo. The Islamic State group and the al-Qaida branch in Syria, the Nusra Front, have been excluded from the truce.


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