Assad holds talks with Putin over Syrian conflict
Russia launched an air campaign on behalf of Assad’s forces in 2015 that tipped the conflict in his favour.
Syrian President Bashar Assad has met Vladimir Putin at the Russian leader’s 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”.
Mr Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Assad informed Mr 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 favour. Assad previously visited Russia and met Mr Putin in November 2017 and October 2015.
The UN has hosted several rounds of peace talks in Geneva that have made no progress toward 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 Assad confirmed he will 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 the two also discussed economic cooperation and growing investments by Russian companies in Syria.
Russian state television aired footage of the two leaders meeting. Mr Putin told Assad that “a lot has been done” at Russia-sponsored talks between the Syrian government and the opposition in Kazakhstan.
“Now we can take the next steps together with you,” Mr Putin told Assad.
Assad said he is committed to political reform, without elaborating.
Syria’s conflict began with mass protests against the Assad family’s decades-long rule. A brutal government crackdown and the rise of an armed insurgency eventually tipped the country into civil war. More than 450,000 people have been killed and 11 million have been displaced from their homes.
Assad’s future has been a key sticking point in years of failed peace efforts. The opposition and its Western backers have demanded he step aside as part of a political transition, something the Syrian government has adamantly rejected.