Bashar Assad meets Vladimir Putin in first trip abroad since 2011

Syrian president Bashar Assad has travelled to Moscow in his first known trip abroad since war broke out in Syria in 2011, meeting his strongest ally, Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

The leaders stressed that military operations in Syria, in which Moscow is the latest addition, must lead to a political process.

Russia later announced foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and US secretary of state John Kerry have agreed to meet in Vienna tomorrow with their counterparts from Saudi Arabia and Turkey to discuss the Syria crisis.

The surprise visit reflects renewed confidence from the embattled Syrian president after Russia and Iran, another staunch ally, escalated their support recently as Moscow began carrying out airstrikes on Syrian insurgents and Tehran sent hundreds of ground forces.

A Syrian official confirmed that Assad had returned to Damascus.

Putin said he had invited Assad, thanking him for “coming to Moscow despite a tragic situation in your country”.

Assad shook hands with Putin and other officials. “We thank you for standing by Syria’s territorial integrity and its independence,” he told the Russian leader.


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