Putin says Russian engagement in Syria will “exclusively support” Assad’s forces

Russian President Vladimir Putin says that Russian airstrikes in Syria will “exclusively support" the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in its “legitimate fight against terrorist groups.”

Putin, speaking at a government meeting on Wednesday, stressed that preemptive action is needed and emphasized that terrorist groups, including the Islamic State (ISIS), must be defeated before foreign fighters return to their home countries.

“The only true way to combat international terrorism, in Syria and in the territories of neighboring countries where international terrorism is rampant, is to act preemptively by fighting and killing terrorists which have captured territories,” he said. “You do not need to be an expert on these issues to understand that if they succeed in Syria, they will inevitably come back to their countries and come to Russia.”

Putin, who has called on other nations to join its counter-terrorism efforts, added that Russia is acting in compliance of international law because Assad asked Russia for military assistance.

Putin said: "It is no secret that the so-called ‘Islamic State’ has long declared our country as an enemy. … We have always supported and support the fight against international terrorism. At the same time we are convinced that it must be conducted in strict compliance with international law, that is, through Security Council resolutions at the United Nations or at the request of the country in need of military assistance.”

The Russian president added that its engagement in Syria will be “limited in time,” though he provided no specific timeframe. “We will support the Syrian army exclusively in its legitimate fight against terrorist groups. Secondly, support will be provided from the air without taking part in ground operations,” he said.

Putin added: “We believe that a lasting settlement of the situation in Syria is possible only on the basis of political reforms and dialogue between all the healthy forces of the country. I know that President Assad understands that and is ready for such a process. We look forward to his active and flexible attitude, and his willingness to compromise for the sake of his country and his people."

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