Russia has no plan to support Syria with ground forces, Putin said on Sunday in an interview ahead of a US-Russian summit. It comes after Russia recently deployed troops and military staff in Syria.
“Russia will not participate in any troop operations in the territory of Syria or in any other states. Well, at least we don’t plan on it right now,” Putin said in the interview on the CBS programme 60 Minutes aired on Sunday, affirming that Russia's actions are intended to support Syria's President Bashar al Assad against ISIS.
“But we are considering intensifying our work with both President Assad and with our partners in other countries,” he added.
Putin is scheduled to meet US President Barak Obama after addressing the UN General Assembly on Monday. The talks will concern the international response to the Syrian conflict and the humanitarian crisis it has caused.
Putin's comments on Sunday come weeks after he deployed more than 1,700 troops and warplanes to the regime-held western coastal area of Syria to support Assad, in a move which has concerned the US.
“We support the legitimate government of Syria,” Putin said, clarifying that Russia's plan to support Assad for now does not include on ground combat, but may in future do so if needed.
Russian efforts to fight ISIS in Syria have been welcomed by the US, but the country insists that Assad’s departure from power should be part of the solution to the Syrian crisis. Russia, on the other hand, has criticised US support for the opposition in Syia.
In the 60 minutes interview Puting said US support for the Syrian rebels was “illegal and ineffective,” and that “US-trained fighters were leaving to join ISIS with weapons supplied by Washington.”
On Sunday Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that Tehran could work with other countries to fight terrorism in Syria, but only if this did not involve changing the regime of Bashar al Assad.
"This doesn’t mean the Syrian government is not in need of reform," Rouhani said.
"But if a government says it simultaneously wants to fight terrorism and change the government in Damascus, it will be a futile effort," he added. The four-year- long war in Syria has claimed the lives of 300,000 people while displacing half of the pre-war population of 22 million internally and in neighbouring countries.
At least 350,000 refugees have sought asylum in European countries since the war began in Syria in 2011. Thousands are still attempting to reach EU countries as part of a global refugee crisis which has given rise to greater urgeny to the search for a solution in Syria.