On Wednesday, conflicting reports emerged about the venue for a meeting between Syrian regime president Bashar al-Assad and Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, during Shogiu’s surprise visit to Syria. Shoigu came to inspect the progress of Russian naval exercises in the Mediterranean port of Tartous.
While the Russian Defense Ministry said that Shoigu conducted an official visit to Damascus during which he met Assad, Syrian sources revealed that the meeting took place in the hall of honor at Bassel al-Assad airport, next to the Russian base of Hemeimeem.
It seemed remarkable that official Syrian media did not mention where Assad received Shoigu—the report published by the regime’s news agency SANA did not mention the location of the reception.
Firas Tlass, son of the late Syrian Defense Minister Mustafa Tlass, said that Shoigu did not visit Damascus on Wednesday. Instead, the meeting was held in the hall of honor at Bassel al-Assad International Airport in Hemeimeem.
“The strange irony is that Assad was summoned to the meeting and arrived four hours before the Russian Defense Minister arrived. Assad waited for him in the hall of honor and, when Shoigu arrived, he sat with Assad for less than an hour. Shoigu then moved alone to meet with his officers in Hemeimeem, before heading to Tartous for a naval and air exercise,” Tlass said in a Facebook post. He concluded: “It has become reasonable that the republic’s president should wait for the defense minister of a foreign country at an airport for four hours.”
The video published by Russian media, which covered the meeting that brought Assad and Shoigu together, shows that the meeting place was not the People’s Palace in Damascus—where Assad receives most foreign delegations.
With this meeting, Russia has added a new insult to Assad, in breach of established protocols. In early 2020, Putin met with Assad at a special headquarters for Russian forces in Damascus; he did not meet Assad in the People’s Palace or other Syrian presidential palaces, as stipulated in the protocols.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.