Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has arrived in Moscow to personally thank Russian President Putin for his country's military intervention in Syria.
The visit is Assad's first overseas visit since an uprising against his authoritarian regime began in 2011. The civil war has claimed more than 250,000 lives and left thousands homeless.
Russia began airstrikes against opposition groups three weeks ago when it appeared the groups had started to make major headway in Assad’s strongholds in western Syria.
According to a Kremlin transcript, Assad told Putin, “First of all I wanted to express my huge gratitude to the whole leadership of the Russian Federation for the help they are giving Syria. If it was not for your actions and your decisions, the terrorism which is spreading in the region would have swallowed up a much greater area and spread over an even greater area.”
Putin returned the compliment hailing the Syrian people for standing up to the militants “almost on their own”, adding that the Syrian army had won many "major battlefield victories of late". Russia has been supplying the Syrian army and pro-Assad paramilitary groups with weapons for several years.
Also present at the Kremlin meeting were Russia’s foreign and defence ministers, the head of the security council and Russia's foreign intelligence service’s chief.
Syrian state TV reported Assad and Putin discussed on-going military operations in Syria against “terrorist” groups.
Putin was quoted as saying he will assist Syria in both military and political fronts, and that he will be contacting "other foreign powers in an effort to reach a settlement to the crisis".
During his address to the UN general assembly last month, Putin went to great pains to emphasize that Russia must be part of the solution in Syria.
Putin will address foreign politicians and Russia watchers in Sochi on Thursday.
Sir Tony Brenton, the former British ambassador to Russia says, “Putin wants to be seen talking to Assad. He is the only channel through which we’re likely to get Assad on board to any kind of transition and this impression will be reinforced by this meeting.”