MAJOR: Merkel praises Putin’s progress in Syria, Putin calls for support in returning refugees

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she saw positive developments in Syria and noted the importance of preventing a humanitarian catastrophe in the country. The statement came before the meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“We are seeing a decrease in hostilities, but that does not mean that we have a peaceful situation,” Merkel said.

At the same time, Putin called for support for Syrian regions that must begin to experience the return of refugees, including from European countries suffering from the wave of migration since the country’s war intensified.

“We are going to discuss the situation in the Middle East, especially in relation to Syria. It is important to develop the humanitarian component of the Syrian conflict, ie to provide humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people and to help those areas where return can occur,” Putin told reporters.

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The Russian leader noted that while most refugees returning to Syria come from Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon, the situation places potential pressure on Europe.

“To help in the restoration of the most basic things: water supply and sanitation, revitalization of health services, I think everyone is interested in this, including in Europe,” Putin said.

This comes as the Syrian Army prepares to launch an operation against the jihadist-held province of Idlib in the country’s northwest. Idlib is the main stronghold of Al-Qaeda in war torn Syria, with no chance of peace in the country being achievable until this hive of jihadism is cleared out.

Only small pockets of ISIS exist in eastern Syria, meaning that Idlib area is the only so-called jihadist threat to central authorities. However, the Syrian Army are deploying its most elite units, including the Tiger Forces, 4th Mechanized Units and the Republican Guards, to this region, ensuring that groups who want to fight stand no chance against government forces.

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