Assad in surprise visit to Moscow
Syria’s President Bashar alAssad has visited Moscow on his first overseas trip since the civil war broke out in his country in 2011.
During the surprise visit, he held talks with President Vladimir Putin.
Russia launched air strikes in Syria last month against the so-called Islamic State (IS) and other militant groups battling Mr Assad’s forces.
Mr Assad said Russia’s involvement had stopped “terrorism” becoming “more widespread and harmful.”
For his part, Mr Putin said Moscow’s hope, in providing a “positive dynamic in the fighting”, was that a “long term resolution can be achieved on the basis of a political process with the participation of all political forces, ethnic and religious groups”.
The visit happened on Tuesday evening, but was not announced until Wednesday after Mr Assad had returned to Damascus.
In comments videoed and published by the Kremlin, Mr Putin thanked Mr Assad for coming despite the “dramatic situation” back home.
He praised the Syrian people for “almost alone... resisting, fighting international terrorism for several years,” he added.
Mr Putin said Russia was also concerned by the 4,000 people from the former Soviet Union believed to be fighting in Syria. “We cannot permit them - once they get fighting experience there and ideological training - to turn up here in Russia,” he said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Syrian President Bashar Assad during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on Tuesday. Photo REUTERS