Syria must be freed from foreign military presence, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Saturday.
"Everyone who is illegitimately on the territory of any state, in this case Syria, must leave this territory. This applies to all states," Russian news agencies quoted him as saying.
Putin also said Russian forces in Syria were ready to leave the country as soon as new legitimate Syrian government tells Moscow it no longer needs its help.
Russia has pledged to use its air power to help Bashar Assad retake all the territory he has lost in Syria’s eight-year-old war and has repeatedly stressed the importance of the country’s territorial integrity.
It is also working with Turkey and Iran to push for a peaceful settlement it hopes will eventually reshape Syria’s constitution and show that Russia can make peace as well as war.
Success would cap a 2015 intervention in Syria that gave Russia new clout in the Middle East and that it is keen to build on, particularly at a time when Washington appears to be distancing itself from the region.