The Kremlin confirmed on Monday media leaks about preparations for an imminent visit of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to Russia, refraining from giving additional details about the ongoing arrangements.
A source close to the Russian Foreign Ministry told Asharq Al-Awsat said that the Russian and Syrian sides attached great importance to their bilateral talks, which would be held in mid-March, especially following the recent developments in Syria.
Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the Kremlin would announce the visit at the appropriate time, without providing clarifications on the leaks reported by the Russian press.
Russian newspaper Vedomosti quoted an undisclosed source in the Kremlin as saying that Bashar al-Assad would visit Moscow in mid-March.
The newspaper reviewed the opinions of some experts on the expected visit and the issues that will be discussed, including bilateral relations, the Ukrainian crisis and the normalization of relations between Damascus and Ankara.
It added that one of the goals of the visit was to obtain Russian support in facing the energy crisis and the consequences of the devastating earthquake.
In this context, Kirill Semenov, an expert at the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), told the newspaper that it was important for the two sides to formulate common approaches, especially since Damascus has begun to develop active contacts with Oman, the United Arab Emirates and other Arab countries.
Nikolai Surkov, a senior researcher at the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of International Relations, said that the agenda in Moscow would focus on humanitarian aid to Damascus after the earthquake, in addition to fuel supplies and the means to attract investments to Syria.
The expert noted that the normalization of relations between Ankara and Damascus through Moscow’s mediation “faces certain difficulties”, explaining that the Turkish side has shown interest in maintaining the dialogue, while Syria was still putting “difficult” conditions on how the Turks should act in the north of the country.
With almost the same approach, Counselor Rami Al-Shaer, who is close to the Russian Foreign Ministry, told Asharq Al-Awsat that Türkiye “has officially announced through its president the desire to meet and have direct dialogue with Damascus, and this requires a response by President Bashar al-Assad to start activating the meetings at all levels.”
The advisor expressed his conviction that the leadership in Damascus would soon respond to the Turkish desire, noting that the Astana group was keen to develop this path, as it would push towards the consolidation of Syrian sovereignty and the preservation of its territorial integrity.