Russian President Vladimir Putin defended Thursday Moscow’s military intervention in Syria and said it saved the war-torn country from“Somalization.”
Speaking at the 15th annual meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club in Sochi, Putin said Moscow’s operations in Syria were aimed at protecting Russia.
"The worst development for us would be complete Somalization of the territory, full disintegration of the statehood and infiltration of militants from the Syrian territory to Russia and our neighbors with whom we have no customs barriers and effectively, no visa regimes,” he said.
According to Putin, Russia has liberated 95 percent of the Syrian territory and managed to prevent the Syrian state from collapsing.
In return, US special representative for Syria engagement James Jeffrey said that approximately 40 percent of the country does not fall under the control of Assad's government.
Last month, Russia and Turkey agreed on a cease-fire deal, which prevented a bloody battle in Idlib province, the last remaining Syrian opposition-held stronghold. They set up a buffer zone, and called on all heavy weapons and extremists to leave it by midnight on October 14.
However, the militants largely failed to comply with the agreement.
"The withdrawal of heavy weapons is complete by all accounts. There is some question as to whether everybody from (Hayat Tahrir al-Sham) has left," said Jeffrey.
He said 50,000-70,000 opposition fighters remained in the area.
"Most of them are part of the opposition that we used to work with and the Turks still do," he said. He estimated that between 7,000-10,000 are extremists.
Separately, UN humanitarian adviser Jan Egeland spoke Thursday about positive news.
“The Russian Federation said again that the very concerning law 10 promulgated in Syria is a law that enables expropriations from the housing, land and property, that may have been owned by displaced people and refugees, that law is withdrawn,” he said.
The UN adviser added: “When Russia says that it is withdrawn and that there were mistakes done when one had initiatives referring to the law, it is some good news.”
Egeland hoped this news would now be reality on the ground. - aawsat.com