Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the bulk of his country’s troops out of Syria. The March 14 announcement is set to take effect on March 15, as Putin informed Russian leaders that his country has largely achieved its goals in the embattled nation.
The troop withdrawal announcement comes during a new round of international peace talks in Geneva aimed at ending Syria’s five-year civil war, reports BBC.
“I consider the mission set for the defense ministry and the armed forces on the whole has been accomplished. I am therefore ordering the defense ministry to begin the withdrawal of the main part of our military force from the Syrian Arab Republic from tomorrow,” Putin said at the Kremlin.
Russia has been a major ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad throughout the civil war. After Russian forces entered the conflict in September 2015, Assad’s forces were able to re-take territory held by rebel factions.
Putin has reportedly called Assad to inform him of Russia’s decision to largely withdraw from the Syrian conflict, reports the Daily Mail.
Putin has also reportedly ordered Russian officials to heighten their involvement in the Syrian peace process in Geneva, reports The National.
Staffan de Mistura, the United Nations special envoy for Syria, expressed the critical nature of the ongoing peace talks in reaching an agreement between the Syrian government and rebel factions.
“As far as I know, the only plan B available is to return to war -- and to even worse war than we have had so far,” said de Mistura.
Terrorist organizations like ISIS are not part of the ongoing negotiations.
A key roadblock in the negotiations is the role of Assad, supported by Russia, and rebel factions, some of which are supported by the United States and its allies, in Syria’s future.
Walid Al Moallem, foreign minister for the Assad regime, described Assad’s removal during a political transition as a “red line.”
Assad also rejects U.N. demands for presidential elections in the country to be held in the next 18 months.
The Russian troop withdrawal announcement could give momentum to the round of peace talks that began on March 13.