It's the first foreign visit for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since the start of the Syrian crisis in 2011, in a surprise trip that underlines how Russia's become a major player in the Middle East. Mana Rabiee reports.
In his first foreign visit since the start of the Syrian crisis in 2011, President Assad came to Moscow to personally thank Russian President Vladimir Putin for Moscow's military support in the war. (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) SYRIAN PRESIDENT BASHAR AL-ASSAD, SAYING: "The terrorism that is now spreading today could have, without your decisions and actions, spread to even more territories and states not just in our region, but to other regions too.'' The meeting comes three weeks after Russia launched an air campaign against Syrian insurgents in support of its Mideast ally. For his part, Putin said progress on the military front will make a political solution in Syria that much easier. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) RUSSIAN PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN, SAYING: "Syria is a friendly country to us and we are prepared to do whatever we can not only in the course of military efforts to fight terrorism but also in the course of the political process." Assad's visit underlines how Russia has become a major player in the Middle East, even if Moscow's strategy is at odds with the West, who want Assad out of power. But for Assad, the trip is a confidence booster. His forces are waging a counteroffensive against in Western Syria against insurgents and Islamic State in a war that's killed a quarter of a million people.