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Assad Makes Unannounced Trip to Moscow to Discuss Syria With Putin

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia called his counterpart, Bashar al-Assad of Syria, to Moscow for an unannounced visit to discuss their joint military campaign and a future political transition in Syria, the Kremlin announced on Wednesday.

According to a transcript posted on the Kremlin's website, Mr. Putin told the Syrian leader during the meeting late Tuesday that Russia was ready to contribute to the fight against terrorism and to a political settlement of the conflict that has raged for more than four years. Mr. Assad, in turn, briefed the Russian leader about the situation on the ground and on next steps.

The surprise visit – evidently Mr. Assad's first outside Syria since the civil war began there in 2011 – highlighted how the political and military horizon of the long war of attrition has shifted drastically because of Russia's intervention.

In the brief remarks released by the Kremlin, Mr. Putin told Mr. Assad that the military and political issues were linked.

"On the question of a settlement in Syria, our position is that positive results in military operations will lay the basis for then working out a long-term settlement, based on a political process that involves all political forces, ethnic and religious groups," Mr. Putin said. "Ultimately, it is the Syrian people alone who must have the deciding voice here."

In his response, Mr. Assad said that Russian intervention had halted the spread of terrorism and that a political transition could come after that threat was addressed.

"If it were not for your actions and decisions, the terrorism that is spreading through the region now would have made even greater gains and spread to even wider territories," Mr. Assad said, according to the Kremlin transcript.

"We all know that any military action must be followed by political steps," Mr. Assad said, calling the threat from terrorism a "real barrier" to any political settlement.

A summary of the discussion, also carried by the official Syrian news agency, said Mr. Assad demanded that the United States and regional players like Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar should halt support for his opponents.

[Source: By Neil MacFarquhar, The New York Times, Moscow, 21Oct15]

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small logoThis document has been published on 22Oct15 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.