Russian President Vladimir Putin stopped on Monday at the Hmeymim airbase in Syria’s Latakiya city to announce his intention to pull out “a large section” of his forces from Syria and to stress the need to move to a political settlement in the country.
Putin's announcement from Latakia came before his trip to Cairo and Ankara, where he tackled with presidents Abdel Fatah el-Sisi and Recep Tayyip Erdogan both files of Syria and Jerusalem.
In the presence of head of the Syrian regime Bashar Assad, Putin told Russian servicemen at the Hmeymim airbase, “I have made a decision: most of the Russian military contingent staying in the Syrian Arab Republic is returning home, to Russia.”
He added that the circumstances were now suitable for a political solution under the patronage of the United Nations.
"You are coming home with a victory, to your relatives, parents, wives, children and friends. Your Motherland is waiting for you,” he said.
Observers believe that Putin’s comments about lessening the number of his forces in Syria, which coincides with the resumption of the Geneva talks, aims to exert pressure on Damascus to discuss the files of Syria’s constitution and elections, ahead of guaranteeing a successful Syrian People's Congress in Sochi at the end of next month.
A western diplomat said: “We have seen similar Russian announcements before, which later seemed less important than they appeared in the beginning.”
The diplomat added: “The most important assistance that Russia could offer to support peace in Syria is to exert pressure on the Assad regime to seriously participate in the Geneva talks.”
For its part, Washington doubted on Monday Putin’s announcement to pull out his forces from Syria.
“Russian comments about removal of their forces do not often correspond with actual troop reductions, and do not affect US priorities in Syria,” said Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon.