Assad thanks Russia & Putin for helping to liberate Aleppo
The phone conversation was initiated by Russia as Putin congratulated his Syrian counterpart with the conclusion of the Aleppo operation.
“The two sides discussed during the phone call the next political process in Syria, with President al-Assad thanking President Putin and Russia as a key ally for Syria which contributed along with other allies to liberating Aleppo,” the Syrian state-owned news agency SANA reported.
”President Assad said victories in Aleppo paved the way for political work in Syria, adding that they will push many parties which hindered the political process to join the political track and reconciliations,” the agency added.
Details of the phone conversation between Putin and Assad were also shared by the Kremlin.
“This success has become possible due to joint efforts of all those who closed the ranks in fight against international terrorism in Syria,” the Kremlin press-service quoted Putin as saying.
“The main task now is to concentrate efforts on issues of advancing a peace settlement, in particular, through concluding an agreement on comprehensive settlement of the Syrian crisis,” the Russian leader added.
Earlier on Friday, Russia’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu reported to Putin that the withdrawal of militants from Aleppo had concluded.
“The operation was conducted on your instructions in tight cooperation with Turkish and Iranian counterparts. Now the next stage is due to follow. To my mind, we have come close to achieving an agreement on the full ceasefire in Syria,” Shoigu said.
Aleppo, one of Syria’s biggest cities, was a key battleground in the war between forces loyal to President Assad and rebels seeking to overthrow him since 2012. Heavy fighting between the sides has resulted in widespread death and destruction.
In June, Syrian government forces launched an offensive against the rebels, encircling the area under militant control and intensifying the pressure on them.
In September, Russia and the US attempted to establish a ceasefire in Aleppo, but the initiative collapsed due to Washington’s inability to make the militants - whom it called “moderate opposition” - to observe the truce and distance themselves from jihadists and terrorist elements.
The rebels continued to fight the Syrian army and indiscriminately shelled residential areas under government control. During the operation to liberate Aleppo, more than 78,000 civilians managed to flee the city’s eastern districts into government-controlled areas with help from the Russian Center for Reconciliation.
In October, government forces managed to capture large parts of the area held by various armed groups in eastern Aleppo, prompting negotiations and an eventual Russia-Turkey brokered agreement, allowing anti-government fighters and their civilian supporters to leave Aleppo.
The pull-out, which started in mid-December, was supervised by humanitarian organizations such as the Red Cross and the World Health Organization. According to Russia’s Defense Ministry, 34,000 people were eventually moved from eastern Aleppo.
The Russian military is currently involved in clearing the liberated areas from landmines, while providing humanitarian aid and medical help to returning residents, as well as restoring basic utilities.