Syria's Assad meets with Putin in Russia
Syrian President Bashar Assad made a surprise visit to Russia to meet President Vladimir Putin yesterday at his summer residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.
A transcript of the meeting released by the Kremlin quoted Assad as saying that Syria is making progress in fighting "terrorism," which "opens the door to the political process".
Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said that Assad informed the Russian leader of his decision to "send a delegation to the UN" to discuss reforming the country's constitution. The UN has hosted several rounds of peace talks in Geneva that have made no progress towards ending the conflict.
A posting on the Syrian presidency's Facebook page said the two leaders consulted on various issues of mutual interest and the latest political and military developments in Syria.
It said that Assad confirmed that he would send a list of candidate names as soon as possible to the United Nations for membership in a committee that would discuss the constitution. It said that Russia welcomes and supports this decision based on agreements reached in national dialogue meetings in Sochi.
It said the two also discussed economic cooperation and growing investments by Russian companies in Syria.
Russia has been a key ally of Assad throughout the seven-year Syrian civil war. Moscow launched an air campaign on behalf of Assad's forces in 2015 that tipped the conflict in his favour.
Assad previously visited Russia and met with Putin in November 2017 and October 2015, and Putin travelled to the Russian air base in Syria last December to announce a scale-back of the Russian military presence there.