Bashar Assad Travels to Russia to Meet with Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin held talks with President Bashar al-Assad during his first visit to Syria
Syrian Presidency Facebook page/AFP

(AP) MOSCOW — The Kremlin said Syrian President Bashar Assad met with Russian President Vladimir Putin at his summer residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

A transcript of Thursday’s 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 Assad informed Putin of his decision to “send a delegation to the UN” to discuss reforming the country’s constitution.

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 favor.

On Wednesday Syria’s military said it had restored government control over a large area in central Syria, securing a power station, a refinery, and a cement factory after uprooting the armed opposition.

With the latest military victory, Syrian government forces secured roads between the country’s three main cities — Damascus, Aleppo, and Homs — for the first time since the civil war began in 2011.

Meanwhile, Putin said Russian warships will remain on a permanent patrol to react to possible threats emanating from the Syrian civil war. He said the threat of “terrorist attacks” in Syria persists and that Russian warships equipped with Kalibr cruise missiles will remain stationed in the Mediterranean Sea.

Assad previously visited Russia and met with Putin in November 2017 and October 2015.

Syria’s civil war has killed more than 450,000 people and displaced 11 million from their homes.

In recent months government forces have made major advances around the capital, but are still battling IS fighters in southern Damascus.

On Wednesday, Syrian state TV said two people were killed and 19 wounded when a shell fired by “terrorist groups” fell in the city center. For years, the capital has seen repeated shelling from Damascus suburbs.

.