Putin says Russians to start withdrawing from Syria, as peace talks resume

by Denis Dyomkin and Suleiman Al-Khalidi  |  published on March 15, 2016

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, March 14, 2016. REUTERS/Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik/Kremlin ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

MOSCOW/GENEVA (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin announced out of the blue on Monday that “the main part” of Russian armed forces in Syria would start to withdraw, telling his diplomats to step up the push for peace as U.N.-mediated talks resumed on ending the five-year-old war.

Damascus rejected any suggestion of a rift with Moscow, saying President Bashar al-Assad had agreed on the “reduction” of Russian forces in a telephone call with Putin.

Western diplomats speculated that Putin may be trying to press Assad into accepting a political settlement to the war, which has killed 250,000 people, although U.S. officials saw no sign yet of Russian forces preparing to pull out.

The anti-Assad opposition expressed bafflement, with a spokesman saying, “Nobody knows what is in Putin’s mind”.

Google Analytics Alternative