Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has paid a surprise visit to Moscow where Russian President Vladimir Putin told him that the presence of foreign forces without a UN mandate is hindering the Arab country's recovery.
A transcript of Monday’s meeting released by the Kremlin said Putin congratulated Assad on his win in Syria's last May presidential election, where 56-year-old leader won another term in office with 95.1% of the votes.
“I believe the main problem is the presence of foreign armed forces, without the permission of the United Nations and without your mandate, which obviously contradicts the international law and prevents you from adopting measures aimed at the country’s consolidation and recovery,” Putin said.
Pockets of terrorists still remain in Syria, the Russian president said, adding they not only occupy parts of the Syrian soil but also continue to terrorize ordinary people.
“Nevertheless, refugees are actively returning to liberated regions. I have personally witnessed how people are avidly reconstructing their houses, and are working to return to normal life in every sense of the word,” Putin emphasized.
Assad, for his part, thanked the Russian leader for humanitarian aid provided to Syria and for his efforts to halt the “spread of the terrorism” in his country.
Assad lauded Russian and Syrian armies over their success in “liberating occupied territories” of Syria. Assad also described as “inhuman” and “illegitimate” the Western sanctions imposed on Syria.
A posting on the Syrian presidency's Facebook page said the two leaders consulted on various issues of mutual interest and the latest regional and international developments.
It said Assad and Putin held talks on joint cooperation between Syrian and Russian armies with regards to combating terrorism, and liberation of areas still under the control of terrorist groups.
It said the two also discussed steps taken for the political settlement to the Syrian crisis, and underlined the need for consensus among Syrians without any external interference.
The discussions touched on areas of economic cooperation between Damascus and Moscow as well.
Last month, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the West has openly used terrorists to overthrow Assad, while Moscow has helped the war-torn country preserve its statehood.
When real terrorists from the Daesh terrorist group and its affiliates “were on the threshold of the Syrian capital city, when terrorists were about to seize power in Syria, the West was watching it quite calmly,” Russia’s TASS news agency quoted Lavrov as saying at the time.
The US military has stationed forces and equipment in eastern and northeastern Syria, with the Pentagon claiming that the deployment is aimed at preventing the oilfields in the area from falling into the hands of Daesh terrorists.
Damascus, however, says the unlawful deployment is meant to plunder the country’s resources.
Former US president Donald Trump admitted on several occasions that American forces were in Syria for its oil.
After failing to oust the Syrian government through proxies and direct involvement in the conflict, the US government has now stepped up its economic war on the Arab country.