Vladimir Putin: Russian President holds Syria talks with Qatari emir

Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the Syria conflict with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani in Moscow Monday, as Syrian regime forces, backed by Moscow, close in on the last vestiges of rebel resistance around Damascus.

The talks, the first between Putin and the Qatari leader for two years, were focussed on “boosting bilateral cooperation in various fields… and on the situation in Syria,” the Kremlin said in a statement.

More than 2,500 Syrian rebels and civilians prepared to leave Eastern Ghouta on Monday after the largest exodus yet from the opposition enclave, as talks stalled over the final pocket of resistance.

Russia has been militarily involved in support of the forces of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad‘s regime since 2015.

Last June Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates broke off diplomatic ties with Qatar which they accuse of supporting radical Islamists.

To counter its regional isolation, Qatar has sought to deepen trade, military and technological ties with the broader international community.

“We count on our Russian friends, with whom we have a cooperative relationship, knowing that Russia plays a significant role in the problems of the Arab world,” the emir said at the start of the talks with Putin.

“Even though we have solid ties and mutual trust, we must go further to reinforce our relations in all areas,” he added.

In January, Qatar’s ambassador in Moscow, Fahad bin Mohammed Al-Attiyah, told the official TASS news agency that Qatar is finalising a deal to buy Russian S-400 air defence systems.