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Kremlin says Assad visited Moscow

October 21, 2015

The Syrian leader has made his first trip abroad since war broke out in his country in 2011. According to the Kremlin, Assad and Vladimir Putin talked military strategy and exchanged words of gratitude.

Russland Syrien Assad bei Putin
Image: Reuters/RIA Novosti/Kremlin/A. Druzhinin

The Kremlin announced on Wednesday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had been in Moscow the previous day. According to spokesman Dmitry Peskov, Assad met with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to discuss the joint military campaign against jihadists in Syria.

"The president of the Syrian Arab Republic Bashar Assad came on a working visit to Moscow yesterday evening and held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin," Peskov told the press.

The flight to Moscow is thought to mark the first foreign visit for Assad since Syria's civil war broke out in 2011.

According to a transcript of the meeting, it was Putin's idea for the Syrian leader to travel to the Russian capital - and Putin thanked Assad for making the journey. Assad then conceded that Russian support had been crucial to preventing a "tragic scenario" in his country, and thanked Putin in kind for Russia's military assistance.

"If it was not for your actions and your decisions the terrorism which is spreading in the region would have swallowed up a much greater area and spread over an even greater area," said Assad in the transcript.

Assad also reportedly told Putin that all the Syrian people must be involved in deciding the country's future, not just the ruling elite.

US and Russia sign Syria agreement

Shortly before the revelation of the Assad-Putin meeting, the US and Russia announced that they had signed a "memorandum of understanding" over airstrikes in Syria. The US has been leading an air campaign against "Islamic State" (IS) militants while supporting moderate Syrian rebels against Assad - who has enjoyed the support of Russia throughout the conflict.

The memorandum calls for the establishment of direct lines of communication and safety measures so as to reduce the risk of air collusions and conflict between the two countries' militaries.

es/mz (AFP, Reuters)