MOSCOW, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said that Russian forces were needed in the country long-term and for more than just fighting terrorism.
"Russian armed forces are needed for balance in our region, at least in the Middle East, until the global political balance changes. And this might not even happen, we do not know. So it is important and necessary," Interfax news agency cited Assad as saying in an interview with Russian media.
He added that Syria's agreement with Russia over the Hmeimim military base was signed to last over 40 years, indicating that the relationship between the two countries was of a long-term nature.
The rapid return of refugees to Syria is the main issue being discussed between Damascus and Moscow, Assad said, adding "we call on refugees, especially on Syrians who had businesses here, to return."
On the White Helmets volunteers, known officially as Syria Civil Defence, that has been widely hailed in the West and credited with saving thousands of people in rebel-held areas during years of bombing attacks by Damascus and its allies, Assad accused them as Western-sponsored propaganda tools and proxies of insurgents.
"The fate of "White Helmets" is the same as of any terrorist," he said.
"They have two options: lay down their arms and use the amnesty, as has been going on for the past four of five years, or be liquidated, like any other terrorist," Assad said.
Last Sunday, about 800 members of Syria's White Helmets civil defense group and their families were evacuated via Israel to Jordan from southwest Syria, where a Russian-backed Syrian government offensive is under way, media said.
Source: NAM News Network