The Latest: Putin calls Israeli PM, Egypt's president
Nov. 21, 2017
MOSCOW (AP) — The Latest on Syrian president Assad's visit to Moscow (all times local):
The Kremlin says President Vladimir Putin has also called the leaders of Israel and Egypt to discuss Syria.
Tuesday's conversations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi followed Putin's calls with President Donald Trump and Saudi King Salman.
They come a day after Syrian President Bashar Assad's surprise visit to Russia for talks with Putin. The Kremlin says Putin and Assad discussed potential peace initiatives for Syria ahead of a summit between Russia, Turkey and Iran and a new round of Syria peace talks in Geneva later this month.
The Kremlin says Putin and Netanyahu discussed specifics related to a de-escalation zone in Syria's south, near the border with Jordan. It says they expressed a shared interest in expanding mutually beneficial cooperation, including contacts between special services.
The Kremlin says Russian President Vladimir Putin has called Saudi King Salman to discuss peace initiatives for a solution to Syria's war.
Tuesday's call comes a day after Syrian President Bashar Assad made a surprise visit to Russia for talks with Putin. Put also had a phone call with President Donald Trump on Tuesday and Syria was also on the agenda in that call.
The Kremlin says Putin and Assad discussed potential new peace initiatives for post-war Syria ahead of a summit between Russia, Turkey and Iran and a new round of Syria peace talks in Geneva later in this month.
The Kremlin says Putin told King Salman about the main issues on the agenda of the Russia-Turkey-Iran talks set for Wednesday. They also discussed "long-term prospects of Syrian settlement."
According to the Kremlin, Putin noted that Syria talks planned in Sochi and a meeting of Syrian opposition in Riyadh should help future talks in Geneva.
The White House says President Donald Trump has spoken over the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The White House says Syria, Iran, North Korea and Ukraine were on the agenda. There was no immediate comment from the Kremlin on the phone call.
Tuesday's call comes a day after Syrian President Bashar Assad visited Russia for talks with Putin. The Kremlin says Putin and Assad discussed potential new peace initiatives for post-war Syria ahead of a summit between Russia, Turkey and Iran and a new round of Syria peace talks in Geneva later in this month.
Putin said during the meeting that Russia's two-year military campaign in Syria is nearing its end, a statement that comes as the Islamic State group has lost its last remaining stronghold in eastern Syria to Assad's forces.
A senior Russian lawmaker says the Russian military will keep its assets in Syria even after the end of its military campaign there.
Gen. Ret. Viktor Bondarev, the former Russian air force chief who heads the defense affairs committee in the upper house of Russian parliament, said on Tuesday the military will keep its warplanes as well as some ground troops and weapons in Syria.
That's according to the Tass news agency.
Bondarev's statement follows Syrian President Bashar Assad's surprise visit to Russia late Monday. President Vladimir Putin said during talks with Assad that the Russian military campaign in Syria is nearing its end.
Russia has used the Hemeimeem air base in Syria's province of Latakia as the main hub for its campaign. Russia also has a naval supply facility in Tartus.
Russia's defense ministry says top military chiefs of Russia, Turkey and Iran have agreed to coordinate their efforts in Syria to defeat the Islamic State group.
The presidents of Russia, Turkey and Iran are meeting in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Wednesday for talks focused on war-ravaged Syria. The Kremlin has already said that the point of Syrian President Bashar Assad's surprise visit to Sochi on Monday was to get him to agree to possible agreements that the three leaders might reach on Wednesday.
Iran and Russia have been Assad's main backers while Turkey supports the opposition.
Pro-government forces over the weekend defeated the Islamic State group in its last major stronghold in Syria, leaving the militants to defend just strips of desert territory in the country and a besieged pocket outside the capital, Damascus
The Russian defense ministry said in a statement Tuesday that the chief of the General Staff of the three countries have met in Sochi and discussed "concrete steps to complete the elimination of the remaining IS and Nusra Front formations" in Syria. The three officials also agreed to improve coordination in a safety zone in the Idlib province in Syria's northwest.
Russia, Turkey and Iran earlier this year brokered truce between the government and the rebels in four areas in Syria including Idlib.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says the Islamic State group has been "eliminated or minimized" in the region.
Speaking to a group of officials, Rouhani said Tuesday: "With the grace of God and thanks to efforts by regional nations, today we can say that this evil has either been eliminated or has been minimized."
Also on Tuesday, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, chief of foreign operatives in Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard, announced the end of the Islamic State era in the region.
Iran provided military and economic assistance to both Iraq and Syria in the fight against IS.
All that remains of the so-called "caliphate" that once stretched to the edges of Baghdad are patches of territory along the Euphrates in the deserts of Syria and Iraq.
The Kremlin says Syrian President Bashar Assad's visit to Russia is to ensure that he agrees to possible peace initiatives with Russia, Iran and Turkey.
Vladimir Putin hosted Assad in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on an unannounced visit on Monday ahead of a summit in the same town between Russia, Iran and Turkey. This week's visit is the second time Assad ventured outside his war-ravaged nation since the civil war began, both times to Russia.
Dmitry Peskov, Putin's spokesman, told reporters on Tuesday that Putin had spoken with the leaders of Iran and Turkey to "assure them that Russia will work with Syrian leadership to prepare the groundwork for possible understandings" that could reached in Sochi on Wednesday to "make sure" that agreements reached will be "viable."
Asked whether Putin and Assad have discussed the Syrian president's future in post-war Syria, Peskov said "possible options for political settlement have been discussed."
Russian state TV is reporting that Vladimir Putin has met with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Sochi.
The report said the two leaders held bilateral talks on Monday and then met with Russian military chiefs.
It was the second time Assad has traveled to Russia to meet with Putin in the course of the country's six-year civil war.
The first was in October 2015, shortly before Russia launched its military campaign in Syria to shore up Assad's forces. The Russian intervention has turned the war in favor of Assad.
The meeting in Sochi comes a week before U.N.-sponsored peace talks are to resume in Geneva.
Assad's office confirmed the visit on its Facebook page.