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Putin, Assad Say Aleppo Takeover Makes Conditions Ripe For Peace

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad

The presidents of Russia and Syria expressed satisfaction with the government takeover of Aleppo on December 23 and said it has made conditions ripe for a broader peace deal in the war-torn nation.

Even as they spoke, rebel groups who were safely evacuated from Aleppo earlier in the week started shelling the city, while government forces resumed their bombing campaign pounding rebel positions outside Aleppo.

Russian President Vladmir Putin hailed the recapture of Aleppo, calling it "very important part of the normalization in Syria"at his annual news conference on December 23.

Putin credited both Iran, which like Russia backs the Syria regime, and Turkey, which backs the rebels, for the agreement making the Aleppo evacuations possible, and said it proved the competence of the "troika" of nations as they seek a broader cease-fire and political settlement.

"In the next stage, an agreement on a cease-fire on the entire territory of Syria should be reached and practical talks on a political settlement should start immediately after," Putin said

He said the troika had agreed to hold their next round of Syria peace talks in the Kazakh capital, Astana, and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has already signed off on the plan.

"President [Nursultan] Nazarbaev has kindly agreed to provide that platform and to create working conditions. I very much hope so we will be able to put all this into practice."

Putin later called Assad to congratulate him on the capture of Aleppo. The Kremlin said Putin told Assad that "the main goal now is to focus efforts on issues of advancing a peace settlement, including hammering out an agreement on a comprehensive settlement for the Syria crisis."

Syria's SANA news agency said Assad responded that the Aleppo takeover "has opened the door for political work in Syria" by "encouraging many, who earlier hampered the political settlement in Syria, to join the process and work on national reconciliation."

Hizballah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah also said the army's defeat of rebels in Aleppo put an end to any hopes Assad's regime would collapse and opens the way to a political solution.

"After Aleppo, one can comfortably say that the goal of regime downfall has failed," Nasrallah said in a televised speech.

The Kremlin also announced on December 23 that Putin signed an order to expand Russia's naval facility in the Syrian city of Tartus, while Russian military police were dispatched to Aleppo to help demine recaptured areas and "maintain order" in the city.

With reporting by AP, AFP, Reuters, TASS, and Interfax
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