A Russian news agency quoted Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as saying on Thursday that Damascus would welcome any Russian proposal to build new military bases or increase the number of its forces in Syria.
Al-Assad, who is visiting Moscow for talks with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, also said: Russia’s military presence in his country must not be temporary.
On Wednesday, Putin hosted Assad in Moscow amid heightened efforts by the Kremlin to broker a rapprochement between Ankara and Damascus and assert his diplomatic influence despite the diplomatic isolation he faces over the invasion of Ukraine.
These efforts come at a time when the diplomatic cards in the Middle East are being largely shuffled over the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia under Beijing’s auspices.
For the Kremlin, organizing a reconciliation process between Turkey and Syria, whose relations have deteriorated since 2011, shows Moscow’s diplomatic weight, despite the isolation it faces from Western countries after the attack on Ukraine.
“We are in constant contact and our relations are developing,” Putin said at the start of the meeting, praising the “significant results” achieved by Moscow and Damascus in the “fight against international terrorism”.
For his part, Al-Assad expressed his support for the military operation in Ukraine led by Moscow and stressed that “this visit will pave the way for a new stage in Syrian-Russian relations at all levels”.
However, the reconciliation process between Ankara and Damascus will be one of the main topics discussed at this meeting, which Moscow is trying to speed up, especially by organizing a summit with Al-Assad and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday: “Relations between Turkey and Syria will certainly be affected one way or another” by the discussions between Putin and Assad.
Assad and Erdogan meeting?
Since coming to power in the early 2000s, Erdogan and Assad have forged friendly relations after a decade of tension between the two countries.
However, since the start of the war in Syria, which has left more than 500,000 dead and millions displaced since 2011, Ankara has supported armed groups trying to overthrow the Syrian regime, supported by Moscow and Tehran.
Despite their diverging interests in Syria and Turkey’s NATO membership, Putin and Erdogan have cooperated closely in recent years, which explains Moscow’s role in trying to achieve Turkish-Syrian reconciliation.
Diplomats from Russia, Turkey, Syria and Iran are planning a meeting in Moscow this week to prepare for a meeting of their countries’ foreign ministers ahead of a possible presidential summit.
In late December, defense ministers from Turkey and Syria met their Russian counterparts in Moscow for the first time since 2011.
I’m Jackson Smith, a news writer for the website News Unrolled. I specialize in world news, as my recent articles have covered topics such as global politics and international economics. My work has been featured in major publications like The Guardian, Forbes, and Reuters. I also have experience working with small media outlets all over the world.