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MOSCOW, February 8. /TASS/. At a meeting with Russian lawmakers, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has praised Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s outstanding role in restoring peace in Syria, the press service of one of the delegation members, Chairman of the Russian State Duma (lower house of parliament) Committee for Civil Society Development, Public and Religious Associations Sergei Gavrilov said in a statement on Wednesday.
"At the end of the meeting, the Syrian president pointed to the outstanding role the Russian leader had played in restoring peace in Syria as well as in solving pressing social, humanitarian and economic problems the country had been facing," the statement reads. "Geneva used to dictate its political terms but now Russia has come forward as one of the main players on international level," Assad said, according to the press service.
Gavrilov, who is a coordinator of the parliamentary inter-faction group for the protection of Christian values, told reporters that the Syrian leader considered the Astana talks to be more meaningful than the Geneva negotiations. "He believes that, compared to the Geneva negotiations, the Astana talks are more likely to help not only ensure the ceasefire but also pave the way for disarmament and political reconciliation," Gavrilov said.
The Russian lawmaker added that, in the Syrian president’s words, the Astana talks should particularly facilitate the reintegration of the Syrian provinces and help militants find their way back to society. "He told me that he considered the Astana talks and international talks in general to be a tool for restoring a united social and economic system and ensuring reintegration, particularly meaning the northern parts of the country currently controlled by Turkey," the Russian lawmaker said.
"Providing assistance to children and senior citizens in the post-conflict country, destitute and needy people is of paramount importance. It is necessary to send additional forces to restore schools and hospitals," the lawmaker’s press service quotes him as saying after the meeting.
Gavrilov added that "Russia is ready to act as a long-term partner and provide assistance in health care service and medical rehabilitation of those affected by hostilities." "Russia will continue to provide humanitarian and other assistance to the Syrian people," he stressed.
The parliamentarian who is the head of the State Duma Committee for the Development of Civil Society also noted that "protecting the rights of Christians, preserving inter-religious peace and accord in that country, inter-religious cooperation and efforts to counter terrorism remain pressing issues of cooperation between Russia and Syria."
The press service added that Assad expressed his gratitude to State Duma speaker, Vyacheslav Volodin, for supporting the Syrian people and to the Russian non-governmental organizations providing humanitarian aid to Syria.