Syria: Russia will continue to support fight against 'terror'

Syrian presidency says Russia will keep up its support for the regime's "anti-terrorist" battle, following its pullout of forces from Syria.

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Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad
Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad
Reuters

The Syrian presidency said on Monday that Russia will keep up its support for the regime's "anti-terrorist" battle, following the surprise announcement of a pullout of Russian forces from the war-torn country.

"The Syrian and Russian parties agreed in a telephone call between Presidents Bashar Al-Assad and (Russia's) Vladimir Putin to reduce the number of Russian air force personnel in Syria," the president's office said on its Facebook page, according to the AFP news agency.

"The Russian side said it will continue to support Syria in its battle against terrorism," it said.

The Syrian regime refers to all the rebels groups fighting President Bashar Al-Assad as “terrorists”.

The presidency also said the Russian announcement follows "the success registered by the Syrian army with the cooperation of the Russian air force and with the restoration of security in several regions of Syria".

Putin earlier on Monday ordered the Russian defense ministry to begin the troop withdrawal from Tuesday.

"The task that was set before our defense ministry and armed forces has as a whole been completed and so I order the defense ministry to from tomorrow start the withdrawal of the main part of our military contingents" from Syria, Putin said.

The Kremlin said Putin called Assad to inform Moscow's long-standing ally of the move that appears to end the main part of its intervention in Syria's conflict that began in September.

Russia began its bombing campaign in support of Assad's forces in September, a move that helped shore up the Syrian regime's crumbling forces and allow them to go on the offensive.

A fresh round of talks to end Syria's civil war opened in Geneva on Monday, but hopes for a breakthrough remained remote with the sides locked in a bitter dispute over Assad's future.

Meanwhile, a temporary ceasefire in the country introduced on February 27 has largely held, despite accusations of violations from both sides, allowing aid to reach some 150,000 people living under siege.

AFP contributed to this report.