“At the order of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russian Defence Minister Army Gen. Sergei Shoigu traveled to Syria for a working visit. Sergei Shoigu was greeted in Damascus by Syrian President Bashar Assad”, the Defenсe Ministry said. “They touched on topics related to Russia’s humanitarian contribution to the Syrian people, who are suffering from restrictive Western sanctions, as well as to rebuilding the republic’s economic potential with the help of Russian experts”, the statement added.
Their talks also covered efforts to ensure a ceasefire in the restive Idlib province and bring stability to Syria as a whole.
“They discussed matters related to guaranteeing a lasting ceasefire in the Idlib de-escalation zone, stabilising the situation in other parts of Syria, as well as various aspects of defence industry cooperation in the joint fight against international terrorism”, the ministry said.
Tensions heightened in the region as, amid a Syrian government offensive to capture the last remaining pockets of territory in the region held by the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham terrorist organisation (formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra, banned in Russia), Syrian forces shelled a Turkish observation point on 3 February, killing seven personnel and one civilian contractor. This led to tit-for-tat strikes with Turkish forces claiming that hundreds of Syrian soldiers had been “neutralised.”
On 5 March, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan struck a deal to commit to the de-escalation of violence in Idlib. Both parties reaffirmed their commitment to the Astana format of Syria settlement talks and announced the introduction of a ceasefire in Idlib from midnight on 6 March and the resumption of joint Russian and Turkish military patrols.