Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said that the presence of large Russian naval and air bases in his country is helping to counter the influence of Western forces in the region as the battle against jihadists is winding down.
In an interview with the Russian Defence Ministry on Zvezda TV, on the fifth anniversary of Moscow’s intervention in Syria, which shifted the balance in favor of Assad, the Syrian president said that Russia’s two central bases are important to counterbalance the western military presence in the area.
“This global military balance needs the role of Russia (…) so we need the (military) bases (…) we benefit from that,” Assad said, adding that Syria needed a presence to counter the US domination in the region.
In addition to the Khmeim base, from which Moscow has launched airstrikes, Russia also controls the Tartu naval base in Syria, the only one in the Mediterranean since the Soviet era.
Russia launched airstrikes on Syria in 2015 and began consolidating its permanent military presence in the country in 2017, following an agreement with Damascus.
A Russian government document released in August said Syrian authorities had agreed to allow Russia to expand its air base in Khomeini.
Assad said his army, before the Moscow operation, was facing “a dangerous situation”, with an armed opposition directly funded and equipped by the US and other Western powers, along with Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which had occupied large cities.
Assad managed to regain most of the lost territory thanks to the huge Moscow air force and the support of pro-Iranian militias.
Washington and supporters of the Syrian opposition claim that Russian and Syrian bombing of areas controlled by the opposition is tantamount to war crimes and is responsible for the displacement of millions and the death of thousands of civilians.
Moscow and Damascus deny indiscriminately bombing civilians and say they are fighting to drive Islamist rebels out of Syria.
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