Assad visits frontline in Idlib, vows to retake all of Syrian land (pics, vid)

Syrian President Bashar Assad has visited the frontline in the Idlib province – the last major stronghold of the militants. He then sent a clear message to Ankara that Damascus intends to regain all of its lands.

Assad made the surprise visit to the frontline on Tuesday. He met the troops west of the town of Khan Sheikhoun, recently liberated by the Syrian Arab Army.

Footage from the scene shows the president inspecting military maps, as well as looking out with a spotting scope, presumably at the positions held by the militants.

The frontline tour came ahead of the talks between Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Sochi. During the exceptionally long meeting, the two leaders discussed the situation in Syria and signed a memorandum aimed at easing tensions in the Kurdish-controlled region in the north.

While talks on northern Syria were ongoing in Moscow, Assad made sure there would be no misconceptions over his stance on the Turkish operation there.

“Erdogan is a thief and is now stealing our land,”Assad said, pledging to retake every last inch of the Syrian territory.

Speaking to Putin on the phone after the Sochi talks, the Syrian president welcomed the results of the talks, but said he will continue the fight terrorism “by all legitimate means.” He also stressed a “complete refusal” of any invasion into Syria, no matter the pretext, his office said in a statement.

Ankara launched an incursion against Syrian Kurdish-led militias, which it considers to be terrorists, following Washington’s decision to pull out the US troops stationed there. The Putin-Erdogan agreement on Tuesday effectively brought the Turkish ‘Operation Peace Spring’ to a halt. The Syrian army, supported by Russian military police, will now take control of a large part of the country’s border with Turkey – a plan that Moscow said has received “full support” of Damascus.