Assad, Russia’s Defense Chief Discusses Military Cooperation and Counterterrorism

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu met Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad and discussed military-technical cooperation between Moscow and Damascus as well as counterterrorism measures against foreign-sponsored Takfiri militant groups.

During a meeting in Damascus on Tuesday, the two sides discussed “military-technical cooperation as part of the joint fight” against international terrorism and Russian humanitarian assistance to the people of Syria “suffering from the prohibitive sanctions of the United States and Western countries,” Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a statement.

Shoigu also “informed the Syrian president about the exercises of the Russian navy in the eastern Mediterranean.”

The Russian military has deployed long-range nuclear-capable bombers and fighter jets carrying state-of-the-art hypersonic missiles to its airbase in Syria for massive naval drills in the region.

The statement said Shoigu also inspected Russia’s Hmeimim airbase in the western Syrian province of Latakia.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said the exercise in the eastern Mediterranean that involves 15 warships and about 30 aircraft is part of a series of naval drills that started last month.

It said the maneuvers were intended to train for action to “protect national interests” and “fend off military threats against the Russian Federation”.

Russian jets have been targeting positions held by terror outfits inside Syria at the Damascus government’s request since September 2015. The airstrikes have helped Syrian forces advance against the militants, who have been wreaking havoc in the Arab country.

Russia and the West are deeply divided over the Syrian crisis since its outbreak in March 2011. While Russia has been supporting Damascus in its fight against militants, the Western states want to see-Assad removed from power.

The United States, along with its Western and regional allies, has been among the staunch supporters of the militant groups operating against the Syrian government.

Russia concerned over terrorist threat in US-controlled Syrian territories

Moreover, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Syromolotov said Moscow was concerned about the serious threat of international terrorism in Syrian territories controlled by US occupation forces.

“We are seriously concerned over the current situation in territories that are not controlled by Syrian government authorities, in particular in Idlib, on the eastern bank of the Euphrates and in al-Tanf region, where Americans continue their illegal deployment,” Syromolotov said in an interview with TASS news agency.

He added, “The United States’ recent operation to neutralize the leader of Daesh terrorist group, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, in the Idlib de-escalation zone is definitive evidence of the fact where international terrorism originates from.”

Syromolotov then pointed to the Daesh’s assault on Ghwaryan prison in the northeastern Syrian town of Hasakah on January 20, which resulted in the escape of “several hundreds of dangerous terrorists”.

“These facts highlight the need for restoration of the Syrian government’s control over entire territories in the country, and establishment of efficient international cooperation with Damascus in the fight against terrorism,” the Russian diplomat stressed.

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