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President Bashar Assad made a surprise trip to Moscow to meet with President Vladimir Putin

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By Ann Tyller | October 21, 2015 11:31 pm

In his first known foreign trip since the Syrian civil war began in 2011, President Bashar Assad made a surprise trip to Moscow to meet with President Vladimir Putin.

Assad met with Putin, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defense Ministry Sergei Shoigu at the Kremlin to discuss Syria’s future, more than four years into a bloody civil war.

President Bashar Assad made a surprise trip to Moscow to meet with President Vladimir Putin

President Bashar Assad made a surprise trip to Moscow to meet with President Vladimir Putin

“Our position is that positive results in military operations will lay the base for then working out a long-term settlement based on a political process that involves all political forces, ethnic and religious groups,” Putin said.

Assad, for his part, thanked Russia “for supporting Syria’s unity and independence,” and for working “within the framework of international law” — reflecting the Kremlin’s position that Russia’s military intervention has greater legitimacy that the U.S.-led coalition operation, since the Syrian government requested Moscow to act.

An unidentified Syrian official told The Associated Press that Assad’s stay in Moscow was brief, and that he returned to Damascus the same day.

Russian strikes in Syria Continues

Russia’s military operation has been presented to the Russian public and the international community as an anti-terrorist operation. In daily statements posted on Facebook, the Defense Ministry claims to be hitting Islamic State militants operating in Syria.

However, since the start of the Russian campaign — which has so far been limited to air sorties — Western officials have repeatedly insisted that Russia was targeting an array of groups fighting Assad’s regime, including the so-called moderate opposition, which has been supported by the U.S.

In this role, Russia’s air force has claimed early success. After several days of heavy air strikes last week, the Defense Ministry said it was scaling back operations to assess the changing battlefield after opposition forces were said to be in retreat.

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