UN praises Russia's Syria pullout
The UN Security Council views Russia's decision to begin withdrawing from Syria as a positive step, the body's president said Monday.
The council discussed the surprise Russian announcement during a closed-door meeting, when it also heard a report from UN envoy Staffan de Mistura on a new round of peace talks that opened in Geneva.
"The decision just announced by the Russian president -- that's a positive step," said Angolan Ambassador Ismael Gaspar Martins, who holds the council's rotating presidency this month.
"That's what we like to see."
President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia will begin withdrawing the bulk of its forces from Syria starting on Tuesday.
The Kremlin leader said his forces had achieved their military goals and expressed hope that peace talks will yield a settlement to end the five-year war.
Gaspar Martins said council ambassadors understood that the withdrawal would take place "gradually but surely" and that air strikes would be reduced in intensity as the forces pull out.
Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said following the meeting that "finally" all the components of Syria's peace process were in place, including a cessation of hostilities, humanitarian aid deliveries and negotiations.
He added that some council members understood that the Russian decision to begin withdrawing "shows our deep commitment to the political process" to end Syria's war.
"I think this is a proper interpretation of this decision," Churkin said in comments released by the Russian mission to the United Nations.
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