CAIRO, EGYPT - Russian President Vladimir Putin has indicated he has ordered his military to withdraw a "significant part" of Russia's forces from Syria, after regaining control of most of the country. Russia would now focus on talks between the Syrian opposition and the government.
Russian President Vladimir Putin made stops Monday in Turkey, Syria and Egypt to cover a broad range of political, economic and military topics during meetings with the leaders of all three countries.
During a Cairo news conference, Putin announced what he called Russia's withdrawal of a "significant" portion of its military forces operating in Syria.
Putin said the Russian military, with the backing of Russian airpower, is close to regaining control of all of Syria and the goals of the Russian military had been met for the most part.
The Russian president noted Moscow would now concentrate on the ongoing Syrian "national dialogue," and requested Egypt's support in helping to bring the various parties together.
Putin's visit to Cairo followed an unexpected stop at Russia's Hemeimeem airbase in Latakia, Syria, where he met with Syrian President Bashar al Assad. Syrian media reported Assad thanked Putin for Russia's "role in fighting terrorism in Syria."
The Russian president also vowed to help Egypt fight terrorism, referring to a draft military agreement that had been signed by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, during a late November visit to Cairo.
He said Egypt and Russia have agreed to increase the scope of their military cooperation and above all to strengthen the capabilities of the Egyptian military in fighting terrorism.
Egypt has been battling Islamic militants along its long and porous border with Libya and in the northern Sinai. Terrorist attacks against civilian and military targets have caused a large number of casualties and major economic damage during the past year.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el Sissi and Putin both criticized the decision by U.S. President Donald Trump to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Sissi spoke of "dangerous consequences" of the decision, while Putin called for a "prompt resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians," saying they must be "based on prior international agreements and resolutions."
Both presidents also expressed support for mediation efforts in Libya by U.N. envoy Ghassan Salameh, including plans to hold new elections next year.