Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to host Syrian leader Bashar Assad for talks in the Kremlin on Wednesday that are expected to focus on rebuilding Syria after a devastating civil war.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the two leaders would talk about “postwar reconstruction and the continuation of the peace process in all of its aspects with an emphasis on the absolute priority of Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Wednesday’s meeting comes on the anniversary of Syria’s 12-year uprising-turned-civil war that has killed nearly 500,000 people and displaced half of the country’s prewar population.
Russia has waged a military campaign in Syria since September 2015, teaming up with Iran to allow Assad’s government to fight back armed opposition groups and to reclaim control over most of the country. While Russia has concentrated its military resources in Ukraine, Moscow has maintained its military foothold in Syria and kept its warplanes and troops there. Moscow has also provided robust political support to Assad at the United Nations and actively mediated to help repair his government’s ties with regional powers.
Prior to a deadly Feb. 6 earthquake that killed 50,000 people in Turkey and Syria, Russia had been mediating talks between the two quake-hit countries.
Turkey and Syria have been on opposite sides in Syria’s civil war for more than a decade. Turkey continues to back armed opposition groups that control an enclave in northwestern Syria. In December, Moscow hosted surprise talks between the Syrian and Turkish defense ministers.
The Syrian, Turkish and Russian deputy foreign ministers as well as a senior adviser to their Iranian counterpart are also set to hold talks Wednesday and Thursday in Moscow to discuss “counterterrorism efforts” in Syria.
Asked if Putin’s talks with Assad could play a role in restoring Syria’s ties with Turkey, Peskov responded that “the issue of the Syrian-Turkish relations will undoubtedly be part of the talks’ agenda.”