MOSCOW (Sputnik) — During his annual session "Direct Line" call-in session on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russia’s short-term goal in Syria was to boost combat capabilities of the Arab country's armed forces. The president also underlined that the establishment of a peaceful political process aimed at the settlement of the ongoing conflict was another main objective for both Russia and Syria.
"Even though the outlook looks very positive, but the war is not over yet and we think that the Russian troops are still needed to conquer terrorism and maintain peace. The Russian presence in Syria is strategic and there could be a potential mutual benefit in keeping the Russian-Syrian cooperation in the future and both governments will surely find the right venues of potential military cooperation, and Hmeimim and Tartus [bases] could be part of them," Sakr said.
"The Americans are still working on the Israeli agenda which is summarized in dividing the region into religious ethnic fractions and this is obvious on their position of the Kurdish referendum," the politician argued.
Syria has been engulfed in conflict since 2011, with the government forces fighting terrorists and armed opposition factions. Syrian President Bashar Assad asked Russia for help in 2015. Russia has continued to provide not only military, but also humanitarian assistance during the conflict. The Russian Defense Ministry's reconciliation center has been actively engaged in supplying civilians with food and other necessities.
Tartus became home for a Soviet naval facility under a 1971 agreement with Syria. The facility later passed on to Russia and is still being used by the Russian navy today. The Hmeimim air base near Latakia was built in 2015 to serve as a strategic center of Russia’s military operation against the Daesh (banned in Russia). In January 2017, both bases were leased to Russia by Syria for another 49 years.