Putin calls for 'pragmatic cooperation' in New Year wishes to Trump
Russian President Vladimir Putin called for "pragmatic cooperation" in his New Year wishes to US President Donald Trump, the Kremlin said on Saturday. In a statement on the Russian president's New Year wishes to world leaders, the Kremlin said Putin told Trump that "a constructive Russian-American dialogue is especially needed to strengthen strategic stability in the world". According to the statement, Putin said that "mutual respect" should be "a base to develop relations" between the two countries. "This would allow us to move towards building pragmatic cooperation, orientated on the long term," the statement quoted Putin as saying. The Russian president also sent messages to other heads of state, including the leaders of former Soviet countries, France's Emmanuel Macron, Germany's Angela Merkel and Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad. In his wishes to the Syrian leader, with whom he met during a surprise visit to Russia's Syrian air base Hmeimim earlier this month, Putin "expressed sincere hope that key changes for the better will continue in Syria in the new year". The statement added that Putin told Assad "Russia will continue to show all kind of support to the Syrian Arab Republic in order to protect its state sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity". Russia became involved in the Syrian conflict in September 2015, when it began an aerial campaign in support of Assad's military. Putin ordered a partial withdrawal of the Russian army from Syria earlier this month. On ordering the partial withdrawal, Putin praised his country's armed forces for having "brilliantly accomplished" their mission which saw Syrian government forces make major gains from jihadists and assorted anti-regime rebel groups. Russia does retain a military presence in Syria, however, through its naval base at Tartus, whose expansion Moscow agreed earlier this month, as well as Hmeimim, where Russian singers performed a New Year variety show Saturday. Moscow hopes to host government and rebel group representatives at the end of January in the Black Sea resort of Sochi to push both sides closer to a political settlement of a seven-year conflict which has cost more than 340,000 lives and displaced millions more.