10:56 GMT17 April 2021
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    A NATO official told Sputnik on Thursday that in the bloc's view, the Russian military presence in Syria complicates the Syrian crisis, contradicting Syrian President Bashar Assad's words to Sputnik.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik), Alexander Mosesov On Wednesday, Assad told Sputnik in an interview that the Syrian people are in favor of Russia retaining a military presence in the country, adding that the size of the Russian contingent deployed at the Hmeimim airbase should be proportionate to the size of the terrorist threat in Syria.

    "We won’t speculate on the comments of President Assad. But as the NATO Secretary General has repeatedly said, the substantial military build-up of Russian forces in Syria and the Eastern Mediterranean has further complicated this conflict," the NATO official said.

    NATO's comment on the "substantial military build-up" comes amid the March decision by Russian President Vladimir Putin to pull out the bulk of the Russian contingent in Syria as the campaign's objectives had broadly been achieved.

    The NATO official also added that Russia should "contribute to de-escalating the crisis in Syria" and not "prolonging it."

    Following Putin’s announcement of the withdrawal, Moscow said that some Russian military personnel would remain at the Hmeimim air base as well as the naval base at Tartus to observe the implementation of the ceasefire in Syria.


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