Wed Feb 22, 2017 04:55PM
In this photo provided by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service, a Russian Su-30 fighter jet takes off at Hmeimim Air Base in Syria on March 16, 2016. (Photo by AP)
In this photo provided by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service, a Russian Su-30 fighter jet takes off at Hmeimim Air Base in Syria on March 16, 2016. (Photo by AP)

Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has praised Moscow’s counter-terrorism military campaign in Syria, citing its success in testing new weapons and eliminating terrorists wreaking havoc in the Arab country.

"Special operations forces have demonstrated their high efficiency. They have played a key role in liquidating the terrorists, destroying critically important enemy facilities and directing airstrikes," Shoigu told the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament, in Moscow on Wednesday.

The Russian military had tested 162 types of weapons against militants in Syria, among them long-range cruise missiles carried by navy ships and strategic bombers, he said.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu speaks during a meeting with senior military officials in Moscow, Russia, on December 22, 2016. (Photo by AP)

The Russian planes had also performed 1,760 sorties and conducted 5,682 airstrikes against terrorists’ infrastructure in Syria since the beginning of the operation in the Middle Eastern state in September 2015, the Russian defense minister added.

He further noted that Russia’s air raids had killed 3,119 militants and destroyed 40 training camps, 475 command posts and 45 ammunition plants used by the Takfiri elements.

Almost 90 percent of all Russian military pilots have gained combat experience in the skies over Syria, Shoigu pointed out.

Moscow launched its campaign against Daesh and other terror outfits in Syria at the Damascus government’s request. Russia's strikes have helped Syrian forces advance against foreign-backed militants operating in the Arab country since 2011.

Russia’s campaign averted Syria breakup

Elsewhere in his comments, Shoigu stressed that the Russian operation had prevented Syria’s disintegration and allowed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s troops to win some key ground.

"The breakup of the Syrian state has been prevented, a civil war has been practically stopped," he said.

Syrian government forces pose for a photo as they approach the strategic Jihar oil fields on the eastern outskirts of Homs on February 7, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

'Moscow awaits Washington’s offer on Syria cooperation'

In a relevant development on Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a news conference in Moscow that his country was waiting for the US to come up with proposals on possible cooperation in Syria.

"We have said what we are ready to talk. And we are waiting for clarification from Washington. We are ready to review any other proposals on cooperation in Syria,” he said.

Last month, US President Donald Trump said that he would “absolutely do safe zones in Syria” for refugees with the declared aim of protecting the war-stricken refugees.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (Photo by Reuters)

Referring to the assertion, Lavrov said that Russia is open to dialogue with the US on safe zones but believes that any such plan needs to be coordinated with Damascus.

The top Russian diplomat also said that he had briefly discussed the issue with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during a meeting in Germany last week. He added that the US official had told him that the subject was still being worked out.

“Of course we will advocate any initiatives of such kind related to Syrian territory to be agreed with the Syrian government,” he said.

Syrian army gains more ground against terrorists

Separately on Wednesday, the Syrian army and its allies wrested control over a district on the outskirts of the city of Aleppo.

The media bureau of operations command for the Lebanese Hezbollah resistance movement announced the liberation of the Souq al-Jibs neighborhood.

The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also confirmed the recapture of the area.

The advance was said to be the Syrian army's first from its lines in Aleppo, which was fully liberated last December.

Meanwhile, the media bureau of Syria’s Joint Operations Command released footage showing the Syrian forces retaking a hill in the Maqabir district in the south of the city of Dayr al-Zawr.

Furthermore, the Syrian fighter jets targeted positions held by Daesh in the area, killing and injuring several Takfiri elements.