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On Tuesday, Syrian President Bashar Assad arrived in Moscow for a rare trip where he will meet with Syrian ally Vladimir Putin on Wednesday. A statement from the Kremlin outlining the agenda stated that the meeting will include “further development of Russsian-Syrian cooperation in the political, trade, economic and humanitarian spheres, as well as the prospects for a comprehensive settlement of the situation in and around Syria.”
The Kremlin’s statement also highlighted that Wednesday is the “anniversary of the conflict,” which began in March 2011 and saw Assad emerge as the leader with Moscow’s assistance when the Russian military intervened in 2015 at Assad’s invitation.
Both Russia and Damascus view the conflict as the result of attempts to force a regime change by the U.S. and gulf allies that have targeted Assad. This year, however, has seen an unprecedented number of visits to Damascus by representatives from other Arab states.
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The U.S. has responded to the increased visits to Damascus by warning its Gulf state allies against bringing Assad “back in from the cold,” but Friday’s China-brokered deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia shows that Washington’s warning appears to be falling on deaf ears.
It is anticipated that Assad’s Moscow trip will capitalize on the recent positive momentum that has been building in Syria’s favor while severe U.S.-led sanctions remain in place against the country.
Assad was greeted in Moscow by Mikhail Bogdanov, Putin’s special representative to the Middle East. Prior to the devastating February 6 earthquake that rattled both Syria and Turkey and left 50,000 people dead, Russia had been mediating talks between the two nations.
It is anticipated that the Syrian, Russian, and Turkish deputy foreign ministers will be meeting along with a senior advisor from Iran while in Moscow, with talks occurring on Wednesday and Thursday to discuss ‘counterterrorism efforts’ in Syria.
After more than a decade of fighting, which included the U.S. bombing several government-held areas, including Damascus, Assad appears to have emerged as the victor, and even Turkey appears to be considering renewing diplomatic relations with Syria. Both countries also want the U.S. to withdraw from northeast Syria as well, although U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, visited Syria earlier this month and reaffirmed the occupation of the area by U.S. forces.
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