Forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad are on the advance. With the backing of Vladimir Putin, they're making major inroads into rebel-held territory. The Battle for Aleppo could decide Syria's future.
Russian President Putin said the Syrian military's successes have created conditions for "the start of a political process on a major scale." Syria's Assad said progress would be made in the Astana peace talks.
A first batch of "Islamic State" fighters has evacuated their stronghold in Damascus a day after an apparent deal with the Syrian regime. In recent years, jihadis have steadily lost ground to government forces.
The two leaders discussed Syria, the conflict in Ukraine, the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline and the Iran nuclear deal. Merkel was critical on press and cultural freedom as well as a ceasefire breach in Ukraine.
In an exclusive interview with DW, Russian economist and politician Grigory Yavlinsky says Putin's policy of protecting the Syrian regime was not in Russia's interest. Yavlinsky sees no change in Kremlin's policies.
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