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MOSCOW (Reuters) – Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad said in an interview published on Thursday that he would welcome any Russian proposals to set up new military bases and boost Russian troop numbers in Syria.

Assad, in Moscow for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, said Russia’s military presence in Syria did not need to be temporary.

“We believe that if Russia has the desire to expand bases or increase their number, it is a technical or logistical issue. If there is such a desire, then we think that expanding the Russian presence in Syria is a good thing…,” he was quoted as saying by Russia’s state RIA news agency

Russia maintains a significant military presence in Syria and has been a close ally of Assad, supporting his government in the country’s years-long civil war by launching strikes on opposition-held areas.

Moscow’s military support for Assad has helped him turn the tide in the war, which began in 2011 as a pro-democracy movement.

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The two countries plan to sign an agreement on economic cooperation in the coming weeks, RIA reported Assad as saying.

(Reporting by Olzhas Auyezov and Caleb Davis; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)

Copyright 2023 Thomson Reuters.

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