Russian President Vladimir Putin said enormous progress had been made in Syria as he met on Tuesday with President Bashar al-Assad on a surprise visit to Damascus, Russian news agencies reported.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the agencies that in talks with Assad, Putin had underlined “that a huge distance has been travelled towards restoring Syrian statehood and the country’s territorial integrity.”
Peskov told Interfax, RIA Novosti and TASS that Putin had met Assad at a command post for Russian forces in Syria, driving through Damascus on the way.
“Putin also noted that on the streets of Damascus the signs of how peace has been restored can be seen with the naked eye,” according to Peskov.
He said the two men had heard military reports on the situation in various parts of Syria, where Russia’s armed forces intervened in 2015 in support of Assad.
“The Syrian president expressed appreciation for the help of Russia and the Russian military in the fight against terrorism and the restoration of peaceful life in Syria,” Peskov said.
Assad also “warmly congratulated” Putin and the Russian people on Orthodox Christmas taking place on Tuesday, he said.
Putin was due to visit several more sites, Peskov said, without providing further details. The Russian leader was expected in Turkey on Wednesday to inaugurate a gas pipeline with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
It was Putin’s first visit to Damascus since the launch of the Russian intervention, though he previously visited Russia’s Hmeimim airbase in northwestern Syria in December 2017.