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Russia pledges to support Syrian government in surprise meeting

Russia has promised to support Syria's government "politically, economically and militarily." President Vladimir Putin also called on the Middle East to unite against the 'Islamic State' (IS).

Speaking in the Russian capital of Moscow on Monday, Syria's Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said he received the pledge of support for Syrian President Bashar Assad during a surprise meeting with his Russia's Vladimir Putin.

Quashing rumors that Russia would no longer support Assad, Putin said on Monday that his country's policy "which is intended to support Syria, Syria's leaders and its people, remains unchanged."

"We are convinced that in the end the Syrian people will be victorious," Putin said.

Russia is widely seen as the key to a peaceful solution in Syria and has been a long-time supporter of Assad. Throughout the uprising against the Syrian president, Russia has provided Damascus with diplomatic cover as well as financial assistance. More than 220,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011.

Need for 'a miracle'

Putin also urged other countries in the Middle East to "pull their efforts together" to help fight against the self-styled "Islamic State." The terrorist group now

holds large swathes of land

in both Syria and neighboring Iraq.

Despite the renewed support for Syria, al-Moallem appeared somewhat skeptical at Putin's suggestion of an anti-IS coalition, however.

"I know that Putin is a man who works miracles, but an alliance with Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and the United States would require a very big miracle," al-Moallem said.

Several members of the US-led coalition conducting airstrikes against IS are considered advocates of "terrorism" by the government in Damascus, owing to their support for Syria's opposition.

ksb/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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