Russian President Vladimir Putin has told his Syrian counterpart that the situation in Syria is now favorable for the beginning of a “political process.”
In a rare meeting with the visiting Syrian head of state in Russia’s southern city of Sochi on Thursday, Putin said recent victories against terrorist groups in Syria paved the ground for the withdrawal of foreign forces.
“After the military success (of the Syrian army in recent months), supplementary conditions have been created which favor the start of a political process on a major scale,” Putin said in a statement after the meeting.
Assad welcomed the idea and said Damascus was resolved to pursue the political process in tandem with its military efforts.
“Stability is improving, and all that opens the doors to the political process, which we started a while ago,” Assad told Putin, according to a transcript posted on the Kremlin’s website.
“I have always said, and I repeat it again, that we have always wholeheartedly supported the political process, which should proceed in parallel with the war on terrorism,” he added.
Despite the possible bumps down the road, Assad said he would stay committed to all political efforts.
“We know that will not be easy, since there are countries which do not want stability to return to Syria. However, together with you and our other partners and friends, we will move firmly forward with the peace process,” Assad added.
According to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, Assad said he was planning to send a delegation to a UN-championed committee tasked with rewriting Syria’s constitution.
The Constitutional Committee, hailed as one of the major results of the Sochi peace congress brokered by Iran, Russia and Turkey in January this year, will comprise some 150 representatives from the government as well as various opposition groups.
The participants of the Sochi congress agreed on January 30 to form the committee in Geneva and prepare the grounds for democratic elections in Syria.
Putin and Assad also talked about the need for greater humanitarian efforts in Syria’s war-torn regions and the importance of economic recovery for the country after a years-long battle against foreign-backed militancy, Peskov noted.
This was the third visit to Russia by Assad, who has barely left his country since the war began in 2011.
Russia, a firm supporter of Damascus besides Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah resistance movement, entered the conflict by launching an aerial campaign against terrorists in 2015.