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Putin says Russia will continue to defend Syria

Russian President Vladimir Putin says Moscow will continue to assist Syria in protecting the Arab country’s sovereignty.

The Kremlin said on Saturday that Putin had conveyed a congratulatory message to the Syrian head of state, Bashar al-Assad, on the occasion of the New Year.

In that message, Putin stressed that Russia would “continue to render every assistance to Syria in the protection of state sovereignty, unity, and territorial integrity, in the promotion of a political settlement process, as well as in efforts to restore the national economy,” the Kremlin said.

Russia started delivering aerial support for Syrian military operations against rampant extremism in September 2015.

Also receiving advisory military support from Iran, the Syrian government gradually retook much of the territory that had been overrun by militants, including those of the Daesh terrorist group.

Earlier in the month, Putin ordered Russian forces in Syria to start withdrawing from the country as Daesh had been defeated.

Moscow, however, will “permanently” retain its Hmeymim airbase in Syria’s Latakia Province as well as its naval facility in the city of Tartus in the Arab country’s west.

The US, meanwhile, has been leading a number of its allies in carrying out airstrikes of its own against what it says are Daesh targets. There are American forces on the ground in Syria as well.

On Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the presence of the American troops — which has not been sanctioned by the Syrian government — was unlawful and that they had to completely leave Syrian soil.

Speaking to the Interfax news agency, Lavrov added that the United Nations Security Council had not authorized operation in Syria by the US and the coalition it leads. Nor had Washington been invited onto the Arab country by the Syrian government, he said.

Syria has faced militancy since March 2011.

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