News / Middle East

    Kerry to Meet With Putin as Russia Continues Drawdown in Syria

    In this Russian Defense Ministry Press Service photo, a Russian Su-25 ground attack jet is parked at Hemeimeem air base in Syria, with Su-24 bombers seen in the background, Dec. 18, 2015.
    In this Russian Defense Ministry Press Service photo, a Russian Su-25 ground attack jet is parked at Hemeimeem air base in Syria, with Su-24 bombers seen in the background, Dec. 18, 2015.
    VOA News

    Russia's defense ministry said more of its planes left Syria Wednesday, continuing its withdrawal as the U.N. held more indirect peace talks with Syria's warring sides in Geneva.

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry plans to travel to Moscow next week for talks with Russian Vladimir Putin about the drawdown and the new push for peace in the war-torn country.

    Kerry said he would talk with both Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov about how to move forward with the process of bringing a political solution to the five-year conflict.

    "This is a moment to seize, not waste," he said Tuesday. "We have at this moment the ability to finally take steps toward ending war and bloodshed."

    FILE - Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, listens to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during their meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, March 14, 2016.
    FILE - Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, listens to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during their meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, March 14, 2016.

    Fighting in Syria has drastically declined with a cessation of hostilities in place for about three weeks.

    But Kerry also warned that lasting peace is impossible if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad remains in power.

    The first Russian troops to leave Syria arrived back home Tuesday to cheering crowds.

    Putin made the surprise announcement Monday that the bulk of his forces will leave now that they have achieved their mission in Syria, which began in late September.

    White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Tuesday that early indications were that Russia was following through on Putin's order.

    Syrian Ambassador to the U.N. and Head of the Government delegation Bashar al-Jaafari, left, and U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, right, arrive at peace-talks at the U.N. office in Geneva, March 16, 2016.
    Syrian Ambassador to the U.N. and Head of the Government delegation Bashar al-Jaafari, left, and U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, right, arrive at peace-talks at the U.N. office in Geneva, March 16, 2016.

    At the U.N.-led peace talks in Geneva, the main Syrian opposition cautiously greeted the withdrawal, saying it could lead to the end of the conflict and Assad's "dictatorship and his crimes."

    The U.N. special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, called Putin's announcement a "significant development" and said he hopes it will lead to "a peaceful political transition in the country."

    France also expressed cautious optimism, with its foreign ministry saying that if the Russian troop reduction is "followed up by concrete action, it would be a positive development." 

    Despite the initial withdrawal, Russia plans to keep about 1,000 military personnel at air and naval bases in Syria. The United States has estimated that Moscow has had between 3,000 and 6,000 troops in Syria.

    In Syria, deputy defense minister Nikolai Pankov told Russian news agencies, "It is still too early to speak of victory over terrorism.  The Russian air group has a task of continuing to strike terrorist targets."

    VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins contributed to this report.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Anonymous
    March 17, 2016 9:07 AM
    Putin is a clever leader. Main aim of Russian military intervention in Syria was to stop Syria from becoming another non-state like Libya and create conditions on the ground to bring about a diplomatic solution to the crisis. by intervening in Syria, Putin totally removed the possibility of western military victory against Assad.

    After Ukrainian crisis, US tried to sideline and ignore Russia. But, Russia managed to sideline US and became main player in middle east. Now, EU needs Russia more than US to solve its problems. on the other hand, he also proved how powerful, efficient and smart Russian military is.

    Now,The United States and its allies will be left to carry on the fight against the Islamic State, which will be made considerably more difficult by the Assad regime’s survival. it is not Putin but Obama who is left facing a quagmire.
    again, Putin has won. Putin has achieved his objectives in Syria and he is not facing any quagmire.

    by: AHMED from: INDIA
    March 16, 2016 10:16 PM
    USA cannot solve any problem in Middle East, rather USA is master in creating new and non solve able problems in Syria,Iraq,Libya,Yemen and Afganistan.
    Saudi Arab is Main Sponsor of Terrorism in Muslim Countries with the permission of USA.
    So if USA is thinking to solve any problem in Syria is Big Joke. If USA wants to solve problem of Syrians then please do not sponsor Human Killer in the name of freedom fighters.

    by: Anonymous
    March 16, 2016 11:25 AM
    Putin managed to accomplish most of his objectives in Syria.

    1.Russia saved Syria from becoming another failed state like Libya. 2. Russia totally destroyed American policy of forced regime change in Syria. 3. Russia made clear that western military victory to remove Assad impossible. 4. Russia became an equal partner to the US. 5 . Russian intervention has brought about peace process.

    6. Russia has successfully prevented IS from taking over entire Syria. 7. Russia saved Syrian soverighnity. 8. Russia proved its smart and powerful military might to the world. 9. Like US, Russia never wanted to resolve Syrian crisis on its own. It never wanted to impose its own solution on Syria. Russia military just went to Syria to bring about a diplomatic solution. That has been clearly achieved. 10. Russia has send a loud and clear message to the US that Russia is a major power that can not be sidelined and ignored and US can not achieve anything without Russia by its side. lack of leadership and direction is the biggest problem for US.

    It is time for American leaders to learn decisive leadership skills from Putin. Russia is so lucky to have such a leader.
    In Response

    by: Manh from: Vietnam
    March 17, 2016 4:36 AM
    To Alice from Canada!

    Whether you like it or not, Mr. Putin has achieved his goals by sending his mighty force to teach the West and their terrorist allies a bitter leason. Russia has made Syria a much safe place when the US and its allies have turned the whole Middle East into a hell with their dirty political ambitions. The so-called "Western democracy" has been proved to have no place in Afganistan, Iraq, Lybia, Syria...as well as the US's allies such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Quatar...So Pls accept your defeat, Mr. Obama and the ones like you.
    In Response

    by: Alice from: Canada
    March 16, 2016 2:23 PM
    Putin clearly gained in prestige and power from Russia's intervention in Syria - but what did Russia get out of all of this? Not much. The cost in Russian blood and treasure has vouch safe a small naval and airbase in Syria of no little real use.

    It has made Russia enemies throughout the Sunni Muslim world. This Syrian adventure will cost Russia (but not Putin) financially and politically. The regular Russian worker is seeing his income shrink everyday. There are food shortages. This 'every man' Russian is paying the price for Putin's Syrian (and Ukrainian) adventure.

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