NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has welcomed Russia’s decision to withdraw most of its fighting forces from Syria.
Stoltenberg told The Associated Press on Wednesday that it’s a contribution to efforts to reduce military tensions and find a peaceful solution to the Syrian conflict.
Stoltenberg says the consequences of the withdrawal are yet to be seen but that he “would welcome any action that reduces the military tensions in Syria.”
The remarks were Stoltenberg’s first since President Vladimir Putin’s surprise decision earlier this week. The NATO chief spoke during a visit to the Afghan capital of Kabul.
Russia’s defense ministry says another group of its aircraft has left the Russian air base in Syria and is returning home.
Wednesday’s announcement comes two days after President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian military to withdraw most of its fighting forces from Syria, signaling an end to Russia’s five-and-a-half month air campaign.
The pullout from the Hemeimeen base coincides with the resumption of U.N.-brokered peace talks in Geneva between the Syrian government and the representatives of the moderate, Western-Backed opposition.
On the ground, a cease-fire has been in effect since late February. Extremist factions — such as the Islamic State group or the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front — are not part of the truce.
Russia didn’t indicate when the next group of planes will leave or how many will be pulled out.