“We think it is an enormous mistake to refuse to cooperate with the Syrian government and its armed forces, who are valiantly fighting terrorism face to face,” Putin said at the time.

The announcement was made after a fresh round of Syrian peace talks resumed in Geneva on Monday.

Following the news, observers expressed cautious optimism that the draw-down might increase the possibility of a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

Julien Barnes Dacey, senior policy fellow with the European Council on Foreign Relations, told the Middle East Eye that the timing was “not a coincidence.” 

“It seems that this is signalling both to Assad and other parties that the Russians are not going to facilitate an absolute Assad victory—and that the political process needs to be taken seriously now and that Russian influence will be used in that direction.”

Vox foreign editor Max Fisher wrote online: “Obviously we’ll wait to see if Russia follows through on withdrawal from Syria, but possibly quite a vindication for diplomacy if so.” 

And Shaun Walker, Moscow correspondent for the Guardian, agreed, stating: “Russia can redeploy any time but my sense is withdrawal real. Goal of getting voice at the table achieved; get out before mission creep.”

According to international human rights group Amnesty International, Russia’s bombing campaign was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Syrian civilians.

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