A still image taken from a video footage and released by Russia's Defence Ministry on November 15, 2016, shows jets on a deck of RussianAdmiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier near the coast of Syria. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)
DAMASCUS, Jan. 6 (Xinhua) -- Syria's Chief of Staff Abdullah Ayoub visited the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov on Friday, state news agency SANA reported.
The visit was ordered by President Bashar al-Assad as the Russian carrier as part of a new Russian decision to scale down military presence in the country.
"The relations tying the Russian and Syrian armies are robust and based on friendship, cooperation, and the defense of humanitarian and ethical values," SANA quoted Ayoub as saying during his visit.
He also highlighted the support the Russian air force has rendered to the Syrian army in the war on terror, and stressed the need to continue military cooperation, even after "the victory on terrorism."
For his part, Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the Russian Armed Forces General Staff, said "the major challenges in the war on terror rested with the Syrian people and the Syrian armed forces," noting that the recently established ceasefire in Syria constitutes "a pillar of a political solution to the crisis."
Earlier in the day, Gerasimov announced that Russia started to scale down its military deployment to Syria.
"In accordance with the decision of the supreme commander of the Russian armed forces Vladimir Putin, the Russian defense ministry is beginning the reduction of the armed deployment to Syria," Gerasimov said.
The recent reduction of military presence wasn't the first announced by Russia since its military intervention in the Syrian war in Sept. 2015.
In March 2016, President Vladimir Putin announced that Russian troops were withdrawing from Syria, after achieving military goals.
Still, the latest reduction is believed to be part of a recent deal between Russia and Turkey, which has achieved a ceasefire across Syria and planned peace talks in the Kazakhstan capital of Astana in late January.