Al Assad keen on closer military cooperation with Russia

Al Assad keen on closer military cooperation with Russia

President of Syria, Bashar al-Assad. (REUTERS/SANA/Handout via Reuters )

Damascus (ANTARA News) - Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, received on Saturday Russia's Defense Minister, Sergey Kuzhugetovich Shoygu, who arrived firstly at the Russian-run Hmeimim airbase in Latakia city before meeting Assad, according to the state news agency SANA reported.

Shoygu was tasked to visit Syria by President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, said SANA, adding that the talks with Assad touched upon the military cooperation between both countries in terms of countering terror groups in Syria.

SANA spelled no further details, but the visit holds its significance as its the first declared visit for Shoygu to Syria during the country's crisis.

On June 9, Shoygu arrived in Tehran to meet with Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan and Syrian Defense Minister Fahd Jassem al-Freij to discuss "regional developments and ways to strengthen and expand the fight against terrorism," according to Iranian media.

The meeting was called for by Iran, and it was said to have dealt with the ceasefire issue in Syria.

Russia, which has been providing air cover and airstrikes for the Syrian government forces since September, announced on June 15 that a regime of calm had been introduced in Aleppo "with the goal of lowering the level of armed violence and stabilizing the situation."

The announcement came just days after al-Assad announced he will "liberate every inch of Syria from the hands of the opposition."

Earlier in the day, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front and allied militant groups captured three towns in Aleppo, following battles with the Syrian army.

The Nusra and other jihadi groups have been engaged in intense battles with the Syrian army in the southern countryside of Aleppo over the past four days, when the terror groups unleashed wide-scale offensives against government troops positions, said the Observatory.

The UK-based watchdog group said the rebels finally managed to capture the towns of Zaytan, Khalsa and Burneh.

The visit of the Russian minister appears to aim to discuss the Syrian opinion on the ceasefire issue, analysts said. 

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