Twelve years after the beginning of the Syrian revolution, Bashar al-Assad visited Moscow, where he met Russian president Vladimir Putin. Notably, the Syrian president was welcomed at the airport only by Mikhail Bogdanov, the Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs. However, he was keen on underlining his position on several important topics of interest to Moscow by setting conditions on the Russian-sponsored rapprochement between Syria and Turkey, for example.
Assad in Russia
In fact, Reuters reported that Bashar al-Assad said on Thursday he would only meet Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan when Turkey was ready to completely withdraw its military from northern Syria and restore the situation that existed before the Syrian war.
Assad, who met President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin on Wednesday, has supported Moscow’s war in Ukraine and told Russia’s state news agency RIA that Damascus recognizes the territories claimed by the Kremlin in Ukraine.
In a separate interview with the Russian outlet Sputnik, he also said that he would not meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan until what he termed Ankara’s “illegal occupation” of Syrian land was over.
“This is linked to arriving at a stage Turkey would clearly be ready and without any ambiguity to exit completely from Syrian territory and end its support of terrorism and restore the situation that prevailed before the start of the war on Syria,” al-Assad told Sputnik in an interview widely relayed by pro-regime media.
In a separate interview with the Russian agency RIA, Assad said he would welcome any Russian proposals to set up new military bases and increase the number of Russian troops stationed in Syria. He even said their presence should not be temporary.
“We think that expanding the Russian presence in Syria is a good thing,” Assad told RIA. “Russia’s military presence in any country should not be based on anything temporary.” “We believe that if Russia has the desire to expand bases or increase their number, it is a technical or logistical issue.”
Assad also discussed economic files in Moscow. Al-Monitor has reported that the Syrian president said that Russia and Syria would sign agreements pertaining to 40 “specific investment projects” related to energy, electricity, oil, transport, housing, industry and other sectors. According to him, the agreements were discussed during a Russia-Syria joint commission meeting that occurred during the visit and will be signed within weeks.
“Joint Russian-Syrian commissions have held meetings several times, but their results have not been what we had been striving for,” Assad told Sputnik. “This time, the meeting of the joint commission was different.”
At the same time, the meeting of the deputy foreign ministers of Russia, Turkey, Iran and Syria, scheduled for this week, has been postponed to an unspecified date, a source from the Turkish foreign ministry told al-Arabiya on Thursday.
The deputy foreign ministers’ meeting had been scheduled for March 15-16, the Turkish state-run Anadolu Agency reported on Monday.
But the meeting was postponed for “technical reasons,” a Turkish foreign ministry source said without elaborating.
Pedersen in Saudi Arabia
The National has reported that on Wednesday, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Prince Faisal bin Farhan met UN Special Envoy to Syria Geir Pedersen in the capital city of the Kingdom, Riyad.
State media reported that they discussed the latest developments in Syria and the region during their meeting in Riyadh. They also “exchanged views on issues of common interest.” Since the devastating earthquake that hit Syria and Turkey on February 6th, Saudi Arabia has shown signs of rapprochement with the Syrian regime, even calling dialogue with the Syrian president “necessary.”
Nine out of 10 people in Syrian camps have been displaced multiple times
On the other hand, The Guardian has said that nine out of 10 people living in the squalid camps for the internally displaced in north-west Syria have been made homeless multiple times, according to a new survey.
February’s devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria, which killed tens of thousands of people, compounded an already desperate situation with an estimated 98% of Syrians living in camps left without safe shelter, according to a report by Action for Humanity (AFH).