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Russian forces to withdraw from Syria ahead of peace talks

A senior Russian General announced Friday that the country was beginning to withdraw its forces from Syria, starting with the country’s sole aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov According to Russian state news agency TASS, General Valery Gerasimov said that the naval fleet will be the first to leave. 

“In accordance with the decision of the supreme commander of the Russian armed forces Vladimir Putin, the Russian defense ministry is beginning the reduction of the armed deployment to Syria,” he confirmed.

The decision to begin withdrawing forces from Syria was made as part of cease-fire negotiations led by Turkey and Russia late last month. The cease-fire in Syria began on Dec. 29, and thus far appears to be holding. 

But this is far from a full withdrawal — Russian forces and jets will remain on hand in Syria, where fighting is expected to continue in rebel-held areas excluded from the current cease-fire arrangement.

Russia has been a key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime during the country’s nearly six-year civil war, providing crucial military support and repeatedly blocking resolutions at the UN Security Council meant to rein in Assad’s capabilities.

This is not the first time that Russia has announced its intentions to withdraw from Syria. In March of last year, Putin ordered Russian forces to pull out of the area, saying that Russia had largely accomplished its mission. But the Russian President’s decision proved premature, and he soon reversed course as fighting intensified. 

Putin is now focused on peace talks that are scheduled to take place in Kazakhstan later this month. Syrian rebels have said that they will not attend the summit, alleging that the Assad regime has already broken the terms of the cease-fire. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu recently echoed these concerns, warning that talks may fail “if we cannot stop the escalating violations.” 

Cover: ASSOCIATED PRESS

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