On Monday, September 7, 2020, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad received the visit of a Russian delegation in Damascus, led by the Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
President Bashar al-Assad said on Monday he wanted to expand business ties with Russia to help Syria cope with new US sanctions on its already weakened economy that threaten to undermine military gains Damascus achieved with Moscow’s help. Also, Assad added that Syria needed international help to rebuild its economy.
On the other hand, Borisov said Russia was helping Syria to fix its power plants but said oil output could not resume as the fields were in areas outside government control.
Through their representatives, Syria and Russia, whose military support since 2015 helped Damascus reverse gains by Islamists and other rebels in an almost decade-long war, said the two sides planned to boost trade ties and would review energy, mining and power projects. “The government was determined to continue to work with Russian allies to implement signed agreements and to ensure the success of Russian investments in Syria,” Assad said, according to state media.
In addition, Borisov said Moscow presented proposals in July to expand economic ties and expected an agreement would be sealed in December on his next visit to Syria’s capital. He said Moscow wanted to help Damascus break the blockade of US sanctions.
Syria pinned hopes on Russia, its main foreign ally, while Western diplomats say Russia’s military involvement in Syria has secured Moscow major regional influence and a bigger foothold in a naval base in Syria’s Tartus port.
Although Assad has now regained most of the territory he had lost in the war, the economy is in bad shape, leaving many Syrians in poverty as the currency has lost 80% of its value.
Russia has criticized the new US sanctions that took effect in June under the so-called Caesar Act, which is the basis of this last round of sanctions. Washington says the sanctions, which penalize foreign firms dealing with Syrian government entities, aim to cut revenue for Assad’s government and push him back into UN-led talks to end the conflict.
Russia has remained a steadfast ally of Assad throughout Syria’s devastating nine-year war, lending vital military, economic, and political support. Russian troops have fought alongside Syrian government forces since 2015, with Moscow’s military intervention in 2015 helping to turn the tide of the war and Russian airpower allowing the Syrian regime to win back large parts of the country. During the last period, President Vladimir Putin has visited the war-torn country twice, most recently in January.
As a reaction to the visit, Hussam Taleb, a Syrian pro-government analyst, told Syrian state television the Russian visit would anger Washington which he said was “fighting us in our livelihood bypassing the Caesar Act to deprive us of our wealth”.