The Syrian leader made the comments during a visit to Moscow, adding that Russia’s presence should become permanent.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said he would welcome any Russian proposal to establish new military bases and increase the number of troops in the Middle Eastern country, suggesting that Moscow’s military presence should become permanent.
When Russia intervened in the war in Syria in 2015, four years after protests began in the country, it helped tip the scales in favor of al-Assad, ensuring the Syrian leader’s survival despite Western demands to overthrow it.
Al-Assad, who met President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin on Wednesday, backed Moscow’s war in Ukraine and told Russian news agency RIA that Damascus recognizes Kremlin-claimed territory in Ukraine.
Syria, al-Assad said, would welcome any Russian proposal to establish new military bases and increase the number of Russian troops – and said they need not be temporary.
“We think the expansion of the Russian presence in Syria is a good thing,” al-Assad told RIA in an interview published Thursday. “Russia’s military presence in any country should not be based on something temporary.”
“We believe that if Russia has the desire to expand the bases or increase their number, it is a technical or logistical question.”
Al-Assad’s years as president were defined by the conflict that began in 2011 with peaceful protests before escalating into a multifaceted conflict that fractured the country and attracted foreign friends and foes.
He recaptured territory from the opposition with help from Russia and Iran, but all three have been accused of war crimes by human rights groups.
In addition to the Hmeimim air base, from which Russia launches air attacks in support of al-Assad, Moscow also controls the Tartous naval facility in Syria, its only naval anchor in the Mediterranean, in service since the end of the war. era of the Soviet Union.
The Russian Defense Ministry said in January that Russia and Syria had restored the al-Jarrah military air base in northern Syria for joint use. The small base east of Aleppo was recaptured from ISIL (ISIS) fighters in 2017.
In Moscow, al-Assad thanked Putin for the help Russia had given to Syria after last month’s devastating earthquake.
Syria has stood with Russia on the Ukraine issue, al-Assad said.
“Because this is my first visit since the start of the special military operation in Ukraine, I would like to reiterate the Syrian position in favor of this special operation,” al-Assad told Putin, according to a transcript of the Kremlin.
Syria recognizes the territories of Ukraine seized by Russia as Russian, al-Assad said.
“I say these are Russian territories, and even if the war had not taken place, these are historically Russian territories,” he told RIA.
Russia has claimed about a fifth of Ukraine and says the lands are now part of Russia. Ukraine says it will fight until every last Russian soldier is expelled from Ukraine. The West says that the annexation of Ukrainian territory is illegal.
Al-Assad said Russia and Syria plan to sign an economic cooperation agreement in the coming weeks.