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As for the part of the Russian contingent that is going to stay in Syria for the time being, Andrei Koshkin believes that it will most likely be deminers, employees of the Center for reconciliation of the parties, and crews of anti-aircraft missile systems that protect Russian facilities in Hmeymim and Tartous.

Mr Putin told reporters the combined Syrian and Russian armies have destroyed "one of the most capable groups of worldwide terrorists" in just two years.

"You are returning with victory to... I would like to note the positive contribution of the Republic of Turkey and President Erdogan to this work aimed at the reconciliation of the sides", Putin said after the talks.

"Friends, the motherland is waiting for you", Putin said.

He warned that should the terrorists try to "rear their heads" in Syria again, Russian Federation will strike them as "they have never seen before".

Russian Federation is ready to deal a new blow to terrorists if they again try to break peace in Syria, Putin said.

Putin orders Russian forces pullout from Syria

"But this won't force us to fold our hands and retreat. On the contrary, this memory will give us an additional force to eradicate that absolute evil - global terrorism - no matter under what guise it hides", he said. Syrian media reported Assad thanked Putin for Russia's "role in fighting terrorism in Syria".

"You have brilliantly achieved the task of fighting militants here in Syria, a task which involved large-scale use of troops", Putin said addressing the troops.

Ahead of Washington's announcement, Putin and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas discussed the Middle East peace process, with the Russian president expressing support for the immediate resumption of direct Palestinian-Israeli negotiations on all controversial issues, including the status of Jerusalem.

Putin's brief stop at the Hemeimeem airbase in Syria's coastal province of Latakia while on his way to Egypt came days after the Russian president declared his bid to run for re-election in the March 18 vote, helping encourage the feelings of pride about Russia's revived global clout and prestige.

Speaking to soldiers at Russia's Khmeimim airbase, where he was welcomed by Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, Mr Putin said he was ordering the defence minister and head of the general staff to begin withdrawing Russian forces to their home bases.

During a Cairo news conference, Putin announced what he called Russia's withdrawal of a "significant" portion of its military forces operating in Syria.