President Bashar al-Assad has traveled to Moscow to meet his strongest ally, Russian leader Vladimir Putin, in his first known trip abroad since the war broke out in Syria in 2011, Syrian and Russian media report. A statement posted on the Syrian presidency's official Facebook page says Assad met with Putin on Tuesday to discuss the "continuation of the military operations against terrorism" in Syria. The aim of the military operation is to eradicate terrorism that is obstructing a political solution to the conflict, the statement says.
Putin thanked Assad for "accepting our invitation and coming to Moscow despite a tragic situation in your country," while Assad praised Russia's anti-terror efforts since the beginning of his country's war. In remarks released by the Kremlin, Putin said that "on the basis of positive dynamics in combat, in the end, long-term settlement will be achieved with the participation of all political forces, as well as ethnic and religious groups," the New York Times reports. "At the end of the day, it will be the Syrian people who will have the decisive word," he said. (Many analysts think that with Moscow's increased involvement, the Syrian conflict has become a proxy war between the US and Russia.)