Russian President Vladimir Putin: Mr President, allow me first of all to thank you for your invitation to visit Damascus.
We have agreed to meet without delay, without putting this meeting on the back burner, so to say. We have things to discuss; I am referring to the situation that is unfolding in both the Syrian Arab Republic and the region as a whole. We can see the situation there regrettably escalating.
As for Syria, your efforts and our joint work have dramatically changed things. Not only is there a dramatical change, we are witnessing the restoration of Syrian statehood, of Syria as a unified nation.
There are many more issues to resolve, however. In the north of the country, in the east, in the north-west and in the south. But what I was greatly pleased to see while being driven around Damascus was that life was coming back to the streets, which were actually bustling. There are a lot of cars on the roads, shops are open along with cafes and restaurants. But much is yet to be done to rebuild the Syrian economy.
I am very happy to have the opportunity to meet with you today to discuss all this.
President of Syria Bashar al-Assad (retranslated): Thank you very much, Mr President. It is a pleasure to see you today here in the city of Damascus.
On this holy day of Christmas, I would like to extend my greetings to you, your family and the entire Russian people.
Just two years ago, only a few months ago, we drove through that district and here, where you are now, and we were constantly shelled.
You are very well aware of the efforts undertaken by the Russian army in conjunction with the Syrian forces to reach their objectives and to liberate a large part of Syria.
Now you have arrived, you have seen it with your own eyes. You do not need a current operational map; you can see that the country is returning to peace, which is the best measure of military success.
We can see civilians, but we cannot see those who have helped bring about peace, because sadly, many of them have died, and many are still fighting on the frontlines.
As I have said, whenever we advance and achieve success, the situation becomes more complicated, unfortunately, due to repeated attempts to bring back and elevate terrorists and terrorism.
For that reason, I believe that your visit today is very important for us to be able to discuss the obstacles and difficulties that are hindering a political settlement and what we can do to coordinate our efforts to ensure continued success in our fight against terrorism.
Once again, I welcome you and thank you for being here.