Russia does not set artificial time limits on its military presence in Syria but it gradually reduces the length of presence there, depending on how the situation develops "on the ground,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview with British Channel 4.
When asked if Russia troops could be expected to withdraw from Syria by the end of the year, Lavrov gave a negative reply.
"No. And I do not think that this is a topic on which we can conduct a sensible dialogue. We do not welcome the imposition of artificial deadlines, however we deliberately reduce our military presence in Syria," the minister said, as quoted by the press service of the Russian Foreign Ministry.
“Recently, as President Vladimir Putin recently said, another withdrawal of troops from the country took place. More than a thousand servicemen and also some aircraft and military equipment returned to Russia. Everything depends on the real state of affairs "on the ground"... In addition, we have military facilities in Syria. I would not call them bases in full sense of the word… in particular, two sites where our warships and aviation are stationed, and it makes sense to leave them there for a while. "
When asked why Moscow "likes the Syrian president" so much, Lavrov replied that "it's not whether we like someone or not. Diplomacy and politics do not boil down to someone's preferences or dislike."
"These concepts lie in the plane of interpersonal communication. President Assad defends the sovereignty of his country. He defends his country and, in a broader sense, the entire region from terrorists, who in September 2015 were able to seize Damascus in a few weeks," Lavrov said.