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Executive Summary for May 18th

We review the key developments in Syria, including Assad meeting with Putin in Sochi, France freezing assets of companies linked to chemical weapons and government warplanes shelling Daraa.

Published on May 18, 2018 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Syrian President Flies to Sochi to Meet Putin

Syrian president Bashar al-Assad met with Vladimir Putin in the Russian president’s summerhouse in Sochi on Thursday, Reuters reported.

The meeting marked Assad’s second visit to Sochi and his third public visit to Russia since the start of the conflict in Syria seven years ago.

According to a transcript of the meeting posted on the Kremlin website, Assad told Putin that stability in Syria is improving, which “opens the door to the political process.”

“I have always said, and I repeat it again, that we have always wholeheartedly supported the political process, which should proceed in parallel with the war on terrorism,” Assad was quoted as saying.

“We know that will not be easy, since there are countries which do not want stability to return to Syria. However, together with you and our other partners and friends, we will move firmly forward with the peace process,” he added.

For his part, Putin congratulated Assad on defeating “terrorists” in many parts of the country.

“And of course now, after these military successes, additional conditions have doubtless been created for the renewal of a fully fledged political process,” the Kremlin quoted him as saying.

France Freezes Assets of Companies Linked to Chemical Weapons Program

France on Friday froze assets belonging to companies based in Syria, Lebanon and China for six months after they were found to be linked to Syria’s chemical weapons program, Agence France-Presse reported.

Sigmatec and the Al Mahrous Group, both based in Damascus; Technolab in Lebanon; and a trading company in Guangzhou, China, are among the companies targeted by the asset-freeze.

French finance minister Bruno Le Maire and foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the companies were working for the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Centre, often known by its French initials CERS.

“The CERS is the main Syrian laboratory in charge of developing and producing unconventional chemical weapons and ballistic launchers,” the ministers said.

Warplanes Shell Daraa in Violation of De-Escalation Zone Deal

Government warplanes fired rockets at the southern province of Daraa overnight on Friday despite the area being protected by a United States-backed de-escalation zone agreement, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

According to the United Kingdom-based monitoring group, the rockets targeted the Tariq Al-Sadd neighborhood in Daraa city. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

The attack comes only days after government aircraft dropped leaflets on Daraa urging rebel fighters and their families to surrender to the Syrian government.

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