10/14/2016, 17.04
SYRIA – RUSSIA
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Deal that allows “permanent" Russian presence in Syria ratified as “safe” passage is offered to rebels who leave Aleppo

Putin signs 2015 Syrian-Russian deal, which allows “indefinite” Russian military presence in the country and provides immunity to Russian forces. Russian general proposes "safe withdrawal" to rebel militias in Aleppo.

Damascus (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Russian President Vladimir Putin this morning signed a law ratifying Russia’s deal with Syria to deploy its forces in the country for an “indefinite" period, in a move seen as firming their long-term presence.

The agreement -- signed between Moscow and Damascus in August 2015 -- allows Russia to establish its Hmeimim airbase to launch operations in support of ally President Bashar al-Assad's forces.

For analysts and experts, Putin’s official signing off on the pact, which follows votes by both Russia's parliament and senate, paves the way for Moscow to make the base permanent.  The deal also grants Russian forces immunity from prosecution in Syria.

The agreement comes at a time of high tensions between the West and Russia due to the Russo-Syrian air campaign in Aleppo’s rebel-held eastern sector. The latest assault by government forces in Aleppo with the support of Russian airpower has sparked accusations of potential war crimes.

Meanwhile, Russia said it was ready to guarantee safe passage for rebels to quit eastern Aleppo with their weapons.

"We are ready to ensure the safe withdrawal of armed rebels, the unimpeded passage of civilians to and from eastern Aleppo, as well as the delivery of humanitarian aid," Russian Lieutenant General Sergei Rudskoy said in a televised briefing.

The announcement comes as Moscow and Washington gear up for international Syria talks on Saturday in Lausanne (Switzerland), to reach another ceasefire and provide aid.

Rudskoy said that the Syrian army has already offered to guarantee the safety of armed rebels wishing to leave Aleppo using the Castello Road, the main route for humanitarian assistance into the divided city.

He added that Russia was ready to hear "all initiatives and proposals" that would ensure rebels' safe withdrawal.

At the same time, he refuted claims that Russia was engaged in indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas. “Russian planes are conducting targeted, single air strikes against pre-verified targets outside the city of Aleppo and outside residential areas," he claimed.

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