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MOSCOW, December 23./TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin has called liberation of Aleppo a major step towards normalization of the situation in Syria and in the region on the whole, as well as marked a decisive role of Russian military in the operation in Aleppo.
"Liberation of Aleppo from radical elements is an essential component of a full normalization in Syria, and I hope in the region on the whole," he said.
"And this operation, certainly, there is no doubt about it, ended with a direct participation - if not to say a decisive participation and influence of our military, especially in its final part, concerning the humanitarian operation," he said, adding that ceasefire in all Syria’s territory should be next step in crisis resolution.
"I want to say it directly that an agreement on a ceasefire on the entire territory of Syria should be signed. Immediately after that, practical negotiations on the political settlement should begin," the Russian president said.
"We have proposed the capital of Kazakhstan, Astana, as such a neutral venue. The Turkish president agrees with this and the president of Iran agrees and [Syrian President Bashar] Assad also agrees. President [of Kazakhstan Nursultan] Nazarbayev has kindly agreed to provide this venue," the Russian president said.
Putin noted that liberation of Aleppo at the final stage proceeded without combat operations, it was about the withdrawal of 100,000 people from the city.
"It is of paramount importance, especially at the final stage - the defense minister has just told me how it proceeded, without combat operations," Putin said at his annual news conference. "What was organized there - thousands, tens of thousands of people, not only radical armed groups and their representatives, but also women and children, were evacuated from the city. It is about more than 100,000 people who were evacuated from Aleppo. Thousands were evacuated from other settlements in exchange for those evacuated from Aleppo."
"It was the biggest, and I would like to stress it, in the present-day world international humanitarian operation," Putin said. "It could not be done without active involvement of the Turkish leadership, the Turkish president, the Iranian president and the entire Iranian leadership and our participation. Naturally, it could not be done without good will and efforts taken by Syrian President [Bashar] Assad and his team."
The president stressed Russia is ready to develop "much-needed format" of Syrian settlement involving Iran and Turkey and is open for participation of other countries. Evacuation from Aleppo was the largest humanitarian action in the modern world, he added.
"The practice, life has proved that such format [involving Iran and Turkey] is much-needed and, naturally, we will develop it further," he said. "But I would not ignore the interests and participation of other countries of the region - Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt - and, naturally, it would be wrong to address such matter without such a global player as the United States."
"A huge role in resolving the situation around Aleppo, and that was also linked to the exchanges and efforts to unblock several populated localities where the majority of citizens are representatives of Shiite Islam, a big role in this was played by the Turkish president, the Iranian president and Iran’s leadership in general," Putin noted during his annual news conference on Friday. "I don’t know, perhaps that might sound immodest, but without our involvement, without Russia’s participation that would be just impossible." "That’s why all this cooperation in a trilateral format, of course, played a very important role in solving problems around Aleppo."
The president went on to say that efforts to broker a final truce in Syria will be continued by all interested sides, with the Syrian government, Iran and Turkey among them.
"We and our colleagues from Iran and Turkey, and of course the Syrian leadership, alongside other regional nations, or all the interested states, should continue the work to reach a final truce," Putin said at a meeting with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
The president emphasized that "everything possible should be done so that combat activities can be halted within Syria."
"Anyhow, we will strive towards this," he added. Presidents of Turkey, Iran played major role in Aleppo liberation, he said.