President Barack Obama spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin Monday, the same day that the Russian government announced it was withdrawing from Syria.
“President Obama spoke today by phone with President Vladimir Putin of Russia to discuss progress on the implementation of the nationwide Cessation of Hostilities between the Syrian regime and its allies on the one hand and the armed opposition on the other,” a White House press release about the conversation said. “They discussed President Putin’s announcement today of a partial withdrawal of Russian forces from Syria and next steps required to fully implement the cessation of hostilities with the goal of advancing the political negotiations on resolution of the conflict.”
Putin’s surprise order to start pulling out Russian military from Syria starting Tuesday came after months of the Obama administration insisting that Russia’s action was only propping up Syrian President Bashar Assad at a time when the country needs regime change. Putin said it should help in the peace talks, and that he coordinated the move with Assad.
“The President underscored that a political transition is required to end the violence in Syria,” The White House said.
Putin said that the Russian airbase in Hemeimeem in Syria’s coastal province of Latakia and a naval facility in the Syrian port of Tartous will continue to operate.
“President Obama welcomed the much-needed reduction in violence since the beginning of the cessation, but stressed that continuing offensive actions by Syrian regidme forces risk undermining both the Cessation of Hostilities and the UN-led political process,” the White House said.
Critics of the Russian intervention, including the Obama administration, said Russian airstrikes targeted Syrian rebels rather than the Islamic State.
A Kremlin summary of Putin’s call to Assad reportedly said the two agreed the Russian intervention “brought about a real turnabout in the fight against the terrorists in Syria, throwing their infrastructure into disarray and causing them substantial damage.”