Russian defence minister travels to Damascus to deliver Putin message to Assad

Russian defence minister travels to Damascus to deliver Putin message to Assad
Russia's Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has met with Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
2 min read
20 March, 2019
Putin has a message for Bashar al-Assad [Getty]

Russia's Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu landed in Syria on Wednesday to deliver a message to Syria's president from Vladimir Putin, according to media reports.

Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Bashar al-Assad discussed issues "related to fighting international terrorism along with various aspects of Mideast security and post-conflict settlement".

He also claimed that Russia helped the Syrian regime stabilise survive an insurgency from opposition.

"With Russia's support, a significant success in the fight against terrorism has been achieved," Shoigu said in Damascus, using the term "terrorism" to refer to rebels.

"We were able to save the Syrian state and create conditions for the return of peaceful life," the minister added, according to a ministry statement.

Russian intervention in Syria's war has been crucial to the survival of Assad's regime, which had suffered a series of military set-backs until Moscow launched air strikes against rebels.

Assad's forces - thanks to Iranian and Russian military assistance - has re-taken almost all of Syria, except for Kurdish-controlled areas in the north and opposition Idlib.

Syrian state news said that Shoigu and Assad discussed ways to "counter foreign influence" in the Euphrates River, where the US-backed, Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have taken control of northern Syria following a campaign against Islamic State group militants.

Russia and Iran are competing for influence in Syria, where the two countries are looking for entrench their economic ties.