MOSCOW — President Bashar al-Assad of Syria flew to Moscow late Tuesday for an unannounced visit with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to discuss their joint military campaign and a future political transition in Syria, a Kremlin spokesman said on Wednesday.
The two men discussed “issues regarding the fight against terrorist and extremist groups, issues of the continuation of the Russian operation supporting the offensive of the Syrian military,” Dmitry Peskov, the spokesman, told reporters.
Mr. Assad briefed Mr. Putin about the situation on the ground in Syria and about future plans, he said.
Mr. Putin told his Syrian counterpart that Russia was ready to contribute to the fight against terrorism and to a political settlement of the conflict that has raged for more than four years, according to Russian news reports.

Graphic | Untangling the Overlapping Conflicts in the Syrian War What started as a popular uprising against the Syrian government four years ago has become a proto-world war with nearly a dozen countries embroiled in two overlapping conflicts.

The Moscow meeting was the first encounter between the two men since Russian forces began airstrikes in Syria three weeks ago. Although the air campaign has been publicly portrayed as an effort to turn back Islamic State militants, the main targets have been the opposition units that most directly threaten Mr. Assad.
Under the cover provided by about 50 Russian military aircraft, the Syrian armed forces, along with fighters from Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, have been pressing a ground offensive in and around important central cities, including Aleppo.
Analysts say they believe that Russia hopes to shore up Mr. Assad’s power over key parts of central Syria and then push the fight against Islamic State strongholds in the West. Russia and Syria tend to group the armed opposition organizations, including both the Islamic State and rebels backed by the West, as Islamic terrorists.
In a brief transcript released by the Kremlin, Mr. Putin told Mr. Assad that the military and political issues were linked.
“As far as the Syrian settlement is concerned, we believe 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,” Mr. Putin said. “At the end of the day, it will be the Syrian people who …Read More

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