Syrian regime leader Bashar al Assad arrived in Moscow on Tuesday in a surprise visit to personally thank Russian President Vladimir Putin for his military support, according to a transcript of their meeting published on the Kremlin website.
"The president of the Syrian Arab Republic Bashar Assad came on a working visit to Moscow yesterday evening and held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin," the spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters.
"I would like to express enormous gratitude to the whole leadership of the Russian Federation and to the Russian people for the help they are giving Syria," Assad stated.
"Thank you for standing up for the unity of Syria, and its independence," he said.
"Those political steps that have been taken by the Russian Federation since the start of the crisis have not allowed events in Syria to develop following a tragic scenario."
Assad also emphasised how every move played by Russia within Syrian territories satisfied the international law.
The fact that Assad chose to visit Moscow before going to Tehran is likely to be portrayed as a sign Russia’s emergence as Assad's most important foreign friend.
Putin said in a statement that "unfortunately on Syrian territory there are about 4,000 people from the former Soviet Union - at a minimum - fighting government forces with weapons in their hands."
"We, it goes without saying, can not allow them to turn up on Russian territory after they have received battlefield experience and undergone ideological instruction."
Putin assured that Russia is also willing to aid and support a political solution in Syria, and that Moscow will work with other world powers who also want a peaceful solution to Syria's ongoing crisis.
He added that advancements on the military front in Syria would be a positive kick-start for a long-term political solution.
"We are ready to make our contribution not only in the course of military actions in the fight against terrorism, but during the political process. This will, of course, be in close contact with other world powers and with countries of the region which are interested in a peaceful resolution of the conflict," Putin said, according to the transcript.”
Peskov added that “President [Putin] was informed in detail by his Syrian counterpart about the current state of affairs in Syria and the long-range plan.”
Among the topics discussed, Putin and Assad talked about issues related to the continuation of Russia’s aerial campaign in Syria.
“Naturally, the talks focused on fighting terrorist extremist groups, carrying on with the Russian operation, and support for the Syrian army’s offensive,” Peskov said, adding that the two leaders also discussed “various aspects of bilateral relations.”
Moscow’s visit marks Assad's first foreign trip since the beginning of the Syrian conflict in 2011 and comes three weeks after Russia launched air operations of strikes allegedly targeting ISIS militants in Syria on Sept. 30.
Russia has defined its intervention in Syria, which marks its biggest in the Middle East since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, as a common sense move aimed at diminishing 'international terrorism' in the face of what it claims was ineffective action from Washington.
Most probably, Moscow will use Assad's visit to buttress its domestic narrative that its air campaign in Syria is a just and effective action.