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Syrian defense chief in Moscow to discuss military ties

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A handout picture released by SANA on Jan. 22, 2015 shows Defense Minister Fahd Jassem al-Freij (L) during a field visit to military units in southern Syria. ©AFP

Syrian Defense Minister Fahd Jassem al-Freij has paid an official visit to Moscow to discuss the results of a Russian aerial campaign against Takfiri terror groups in the Arab country.

Freij met with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu in Moscow late Thursday to exchange views on bilateral military cooperation and other security issues in the Middle East, local media said.

“The results of the operation of the Russian air force in Syria, aimed at the destruction of terrorist groups, were discussed,” Freij told reporters following the meeting.

"The meeting was held in a friendly atmosphere and confirmed the mutual intention to further expand comprehensive cooperation between the defense ministries," the Russian Defense Ministry was quoted as saying.

Moscow has been bombing areas under the control of Daesh and other terrorists in Syria since September 30 upon a request by the Syrian government.

The air raids have helped Syrian armed forces gain the upper hand in the battle ground against extremist groups. Backed by the Russian air cover, Syrian forces have managed to liberate many militant-held areas over the past few months.

The Syrian defense chief’s visit came on the eve of UN-sponsored peace talks in Geneva due to begin on Friday.

Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem will lead the Syrian delegation in the talks amid hopes of an agreement to end years of the conflict, but the opposition has said it will not attend the meeting.   

Syrian opposition members met for a third day in the Saudi capital Thursday to decide whether to attend the peace talks.  

The meeting was supposed to start on January 25, but was put off due to disagreements over who should sit at the negotiating table.

The UN warned on Thursday the negotiations must not fail but the opposition's no-show risks derailing the first attempt in two years to end the five-year-long war which has claimed over 260,000 lives so far.

Shoigu on Thursday separately met the Jordanian army's joint chief of staff, General Mohammed al-Zaben Meshaal, news agencies reported.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said it wanted to hold an international meeting on Syria, which would include key players from the West and the Middle East, in Munich next month. 

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