Syria’s Assad Sees Georgia War as Opening Moscow Options

Syria’s Assad Sees Georgia War as Opening Moscow Options

From Aug. 20-21, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad visited the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi at the invitation of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Assad last visited Russia in late 2006, when he met with then Russian President Vladimir Putin.

At the beginning of their Sochi meeting, Medvedev greeted Assad by remarking that, "We are grateful to Syria for its support on issues related to the well-known recent conflict with Georgia, which committed an act of aggression against South Ossetia." Assad responded that, "we wish to once again express our support for the Russian position as regards the recent conflict and the general situation around Abkhazia and South Ossetia. We agree with the essence of the Russian position and understand the military reaction to the events that took place; we consider this to be a reaction to provocation by Georgia." He reaffirmed Syria's support for Russia and said his country would opposed "any attempt to tarnish Russia's reputation or misrepresent its position, which in this situation is both logical and explicable."

Assad clearly perceives the Georgian crisis as an opportunity to strengthen Russian-Syrian relations. In an interview with the Kommersant newspaper before his arrival, he stressed that, "we are ready to cooperate with Russia in any project that can strengthen its security." He also described the war as "unleashed by Georgia," as a "continuation of U.S. Cold War-era policy," and as "the culmination of attempts to encircle and isolate Russia."

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