Assad meets Russia envoy, hails 'partners in victories'

Damascus (AFP) –


Syrian President Bashar al-Assad hailed Russia's hand in his recent victories during a meeting in Damascus on Wednesday with the Kremlin's special envoy to talks on the conflict.

It came just days after his troops secured the capital from jihadists and less than a week since Assad travelled to Sochi to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin.

On Wednesday, the Russian envoy to Syria was in Damascus to meet Assad and other top Syrian officials, state news agency SANA reported.

Alexander Lavrentiev relayed Putin's congratulations to Assad on the capital's recapture, according to the agency.

Russia has backed Syria's government for several decades but intervened militarily in its war in 2015, turning the tides for Assad.

"Russia's leaders and its people are partners in these victories, which will not stop until the last terrorist is killed and the last terrorist pocket is liberated," Assad said.

Also present at the meeting were Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, his deputy Faisal Mekdad, and top Assad adviser Buthaina Shaaban.

The meeting comes less than a week after Assad met Putin at Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Putin at the time insisted foreign armed forces would withdraw from Syria but did not provide any details.

In addition to Russian forces, there are Iranian, Lebanese, and Iraqi fighters battling on behalf of Assad in Syria.

Lavrentiev later told journalists the withdrawal of foreign troops should be done "as a whole" and include both Iranians and allied Lebanese militia Hezbollah.

But Mekdad shot back on Wednesday, saying those fighters were in Syria to fight terrorism.

"This topic is not even on the agenda for discussion," he told RIA Novosti state news agency.