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  • He told President Assad that Russia wanted to work

    " Mr Putin announced the move at the Russian Hmeimim airbase in Syria Russia has begun withdrawing some of its troops from Syria Nick Van Exel Jersey , Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Monday.

    President Vladimir Putin ordered the partial withdrawal during an unannounced visit to Syria on Monday.

    Russian support has been crucial in turning the tide of Syria's civil war in favour of government forces, led by president Bashar al-Assad.

    Mr Putin made a similar withdrawal announcement last year, but Russian military operations continued.

    When asked how long it would take for Russia to withdraw its military contingent, Mr Shoigu said that this would ""depend on the situation"" in Syria.

    The Russian president was met by Mr al-Assad at the Russian Hmeimim airbase near Latakia.

    Mr Putin said: ""I order the defence minister and the chief of the general staff to start withdrawing the Russian group of troops to their permanent bases,"" according to the Russian RIA Novosti news agency.

    ""I have taken a decision: a significant part of the Russian troop contingent located in Syria is returning home to Russia Robert Horry Jersey ,"" he added.

    Less than a week after announcing he will stand for re-election, Vladimir Putin flies to Syria and declares victory. Coincidence? Probably not.

    Signalling the end of Russia's military operation in Syria will go down well with Russian voters.

    Electoral concerns apart, Moscow views its two-year campaign in Syria as a success - and not only in terms of fighting international terrorism.

    The Russians have succeeded in keeping a key ally, President Assad, in power. In the process Byron Scott Jersey , Russia has been guaranteed a long-term military presence in Syria, with its two bases Hmeimim and Tartus. Moscow has also raised its profile across the Middle East.

    Then there's the global stage. The operation in Syria prevented Moscow's international isolation.

    Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014 had sparked Western sanctions and earned the country, in the eyes of some Western governments, the label ""pariah state"". The Syria operation forced Western leaders to sit down and negotiate with Russia's leadership.

    Mr Putin said that if ""terrorists raise their heads again"", Russia would ""carry out such strikes on them which they have never seen"".

    ""We will never forget the victims and losses suffered in the fight against terror both here in Syria and also in Russia Derek Fisher Jersey ,"" he said.

    He told President Assad that Russia wanted to work with Iran, the government's other key ally, and Turkey, which backs the opposition, to help bring peace to Syria.

    A Russian bomber lands at the Russian Hmeimim military base in Latakia province Lonzo Ball Jersey , in the northwest of Syria, 16 December 2015Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES

    Russia has been carrying out air strikes in Syria since September 2015
    Last week, Mr Putin announced the ""total rout"" of jihadist militants from so-called Islamic State (IS) along the Euphrates river valley in eastern Syria.

    Russia launched an air campaign in Syria in September 2015 with the aim of ""stabilising"" Mr Assad's government after a series of defeats.

    Officials in Moscow stressed that it would target only ""terrorists"", but activists said its strikes mainly hit mainstream rebel fighters and civilians.

    The campaign has allowed pro-government forces to break the deadlock on several key battlefronts, most notably in Aleppo.

    The Syrian and Russian air forces carried out daily air strikes on the rebel-held east of the city before it fell in December 2016 Brandon Ingram Lakers Jersey , killing hundreds of people and destroying hospitals, schools and markets, according to UN human rights investigators.

    Moscow has consistently denied that its air strikes have caused any civilian deaths.

    However, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Sunday that Russian air strikes had killed 6,328 civilians Kyle Kuzma Lakers Jersey , including 1,537 children.

    The UK-based monitoring group has documented the deaths of 346,612 people in total since the start of the uprising against Mr Assad in 2011.(Agencies)
    Turkey on Monday was asking the US to reverse a decision to halt the issuing of all regular visas at American consulates in the country, in a row that risks a major crisis.

    Ankara hit back at the US move - sparked by the arrest of a US Istanbul consulate staffer - with a similar halt by Turkey's missions in the US.

    Analysts warned the dispute risked becoming the most serious row between the two NATO allies in decades.

    The Turkish foreign ministry summoned the US embassy's deputy chief of mission on Monday, urging Washington to reverse its decision to suspend all non-immigrant visa services.

    Ministry officials told the diplomat the move was creating "unnecessary escalation and victimization Magic Johnson Lakers Jersey ," state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

    The US embassy in Ankara said Sunday it would suspend issuing visas for tourism, medical treatment, business, temporary work or study, after the arrest last week.

    Immigrant visa services are only for those seeking to live in the US permanently.

    The US embassy said "recent events" forced the US government to reassess Turkey's "commitment" to the security of US mission services and personnel in the country.

    Last week an Istanbul court remanded in custody the US consulate employee over accusations of links to US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen who Ankara blames for the 2016 failed coup. He has been charged with espionage and seeking to overthrow the Turkish government Kobe Bryant Lakers Jersey , accusations the embassy rejected as "wholly without merit."

    Ankara countered Washington's visa move with further restrictive measures, stopping services applying to visas in passports as well as e-visas and visas acquired at the border and those issued at diplomatic facilities in the US.