“We expect (this) will have a favorable impact on the improvement of the negotiations,” he said in a statement.
President Vladimir Putin on Monday ordered the “principal part” of Russia’s forces out of the war-torn country, but the Kremlin denied it was trying to demand its longtime ally President Bashar al-Assad.
One Al Qaeda linked group branded the secession a “defeat” and vowed to start a brand new offensive in Syria.
Putin said on Monday that Moscow’s military goal had been “on the whole” completed some five-and-a-half months and 9,000 battle sorties after the Kremlin started its bombing campaign in support of Assad.
State media air live footage of flag-waving crowds greeting returning pilots at a military base in southwest Russia as a brass band played.
“It continues to be too early to speak of victory over terrorism. The Russian air group has a job of continuing to hit terrorist targets,” deputy defence minister Nikolai Pankov was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies at Moscow’s Hmeimim base in Syria.
The FATE of dISPUTE OVER ASSAD
The West responded carefully, since Moscow is to establish a timeframe for completing the drawback and a Kremlin official said Russia will keep sophisticated air defence systems in Syria.
Some authorities expressed trust the Russian move could drive Assad to negotiate, but in Geneva both sides stayed locked in a bitter dispute over his fate.
The talks started after a short-term ceasefire between Assad’s forces and adversaries was introduced on Feb 27 and has mostly held, even though it will not cover the Islamic State group and Al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate the Al-Nusra Front.
Damascus triggered Western wrath by staking out an uncompromising position before the talks, insisting that conversations on Assad’s removal were a “red line” they would not cross. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied that Assad’s perceived inflexibility angered the Kremlin.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said a Russian drawback “increases the pressure” on Assad to negotiate, while France’s foreign ministry said “anything that helps towards a de escalation in Syria ought to be encouraged.”
Moscow has pledged to ratchet up its own diplomatic attempts to find a political answer to a conflict which has killed more than 270,000 people and displaced millions since March 2011.
The White House said President Barack Obama had spoken to Putin following Russia’s announcement, and discussed the “next steps required to fully implement the cessation of hostilities”.
But US officials offered a careful first evaluation. “At this point, we’re going to see how things play out during the following few days,” a senior administration official told AFP.
The foreign minister of Iran – which commands thousands of troops supporting Assad on the ground in Syria – said Russia’s withdrawal demonstrated Moscow did not “see a certain demand (to) resort to force in keeping the ceasefire”.
Russia started air strikes in Syria in September, a move that enabled them to go on the offensive and helped shore up the regime’s crumbling powers.
The intervention was slammed by the West and its regional allies, which insisted Moscow was largely blasting more reasonable rebels.
Meanwhile, a militant commander told AFP that Al Nusra was preparing to start a brand new offensive “within the next 48 hours”, saying the regime was unable to hold onto territory it had captured with the aid of the Russians.
The main opposition in Syria welcomed the Kremlin statement, but said it’d wait and see the effect on the earth. “We must confirm the essence of the choice and its meaning,” HNC spokesman Salem al-Meslet told reporters in Geneva.
After his first official meeting together with the regime on Monday, de Mistura told reporters that “powerful statements (and) rhetoric” were part of every demanding negotiation and that his initial discussions with authorities representative Bashar al-Jaafari were “useful”.