Syrian President Bashar al-Assad paid a visit to his Russian patron Vladimir Putin on 20 October, travelling to Moscow in what was his first outing from Syria since civil war erupted in 2011. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the two heads of state spoke privately for one hour before being joined by some of Russia's top brass to discuss the ongoing military operations in Syria.

"President of the Syrian Arab Republic Bashar Assad arrived in Moscow on a working visit yesterday evening," Peskov told Itar-Tass news agency. "The talks were rather lengthy and the issues discussed are clear enough."

The meeting, which according to Putin was requested by Russia, came weeks after the country began launching air strikes in Syria to shore up the crumbing Assad regime, Moscow's only ally in the region.

The Kremlin has painted the operation as part of a war against terrorism, saying it is targeting Islamic State (Isis) and other jihadists but the US says moderate rebel groups opposed to Assad have also been attacked.

In a transcript of remarks from the meeting released by Moscow, Assad thanked Putin for his support against terrorism, also stressing a political process should follow military action.

In turn, the Russian leader said he was grateful Assad responded to his request for a visit "despite the dramatic situation" in his country and repeated Moscow's concerns that some of the roughly 4,000 jihadists form the former Soviet Union currently fighting in Syria could return to Russia.

Putin also said a diplomatic solution had to be found to bring war to an end. "Positive results in military operations will lay the base for then working out a long-term settlement based on a political process that involves all political forces, ethnic and religious groups," he said. Assad has since returned to Damascus, security officials told AP.