Assad Meets Putin in a Surprise Visit to Russian Federation

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin will primarily focus on pressing global and regional issues, including impact of the United States withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, during their informal summit in Russian city of Sochi on Monday.

The Russian president said: "Given the victories and successes of the Syrian army in the war on terror, in light of the onset of a more active period, and in light of the fact that a more active political process has begun, foreign armed forces will start leaving Syrian territory". Assad previously visited Russian Federation and met with Putin in November 2017 and October 2015.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that "there were detailed discussions" between the two leaders, who last met in December at a Russian military air base in Syria's coastal province of Latakia. The UN has hosted several rounds of peace talks in Geneva that have made no progress towards ending the conflict.

Russian Federation is a key ally of Assad and has provided support which has allowed the Syrian regime to make territorial gains in recent months against rebels.

Assad said he is committed to making political changes, without elaborating.

Mr Putin said the Russian air force would receive 160 new aircraft this year
Mr Putin said the Russian air force would receive 160 new aircraft this year

The surrender in northern Homs and southern Hama adds to what has been described as one of the largest population shifts in Syria since the conflict began.

"As far are we are concerned, we are not going to allow decisions on our defence requirements to be dictated by any other nation...we will take our decisions that are in the best interest of the nation, " highly-placed sources said on Thursday.

"The fearless armed forces, with support from allies, have completed the clearing of [463 square miles] in rural Northern Homs and Southern Hama, and have restored security to 65 villages and towns", said Brig.

Regime forces recaptured Ghouta from rebels last month after a ferocious offensive that displaced tens of thousands, both to government-controlled zones around Damascus and to opposition-held parts of northern Syria.

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