January 07, 2020
Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, Syria, on January 7, 2020. AFP/Syrian Presidency
Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Syria on Tuesday and met with officials including President Bashar Assad, Syrian state media and a Kremlin spokesman reported.
Putin’s visit is the second to the war-torn country where his troops have been fighting alongside Syrian government forces since 2015.
The visit comes amid heightened tensions between Iran, a key Syrian ally, and the United States, following the killing of a top Iranian general in a U.S. airstrike in neighboring Iraq.
Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani’s death has sparked calls across Iran for revenge against America.
U.S. troops are based in eastern Syria, making the country a potential site of conflict with Iran.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin visited the Russian command post in Damascus and met President Bashar Assad there. The two leaders were presented with military reports on the situation in different regions of Syria.
In his conversation with Assad, Putin said that “a huge distance has been covered in terms of restoring Syria’s statehood and territorial integrity,” Peskov said.
State news agency SANA gave no further details about Putin’s visit only saying that he met with Assad in a Russian military base in the capital.
The last time Putin visited Syria was in 2017 when he declared that mission for Russian troops has been accomplished. Russia has been a main backer of Assad and has tipped the balance of power in his favor over the past four years with government forces now in control in most of the country.
Syria’s conflict that began in March 2011 has left more than 400,000 people dead.
Last week U.S. warplanes attacked bases of Iran-backed Iraqi fighters in western Iraq and eastern Syria killing 25 and wounding dozens others.
The U.S. government warned ships of an unspecified threat from Iran across all the Mideast’s waterways, crucial routes for global energy supplies.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Air Force launched a drill with 52 fighter jets in Utah, just days after President Donald Trump threatened to hit 52 sites in Iran.