Syrian President Bashar al-Assad met with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Tuesday, his first known trip abroad since war broke out in Syria in 2011. Photo: AP.

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Nathan Hodge in Moscow,

Nathan Hodge
The Wall Street Journal

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@nohodge

Nathan.Hodge@wsj.com

Felicia Schwartz in Washington and

Felicia Schwartz
The Wall Street Journal

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felicia.schwartz@wsj.com

Raja Abdulrahim in Beirut

Updated Oct. 21, 2015 11:30 a.m. ET

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The U.S. and Russia will meet at an international conference on Syria this week, marking their first face-to-face talks on the crisis since the day Russian warplanes began flying combat missions over Syria at cross-purposes with an American-led campaign. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will meet his Russian counterpart as well as top diplomats from Saudi Arabia and Turkey in a four-way conference as the Obama administration grapples for a way to salvage its flagging agenda in the Middle East. The meeting, which U.S. and Russian officials said will be held Friday in Vienna, follows a visit to Moscow this week by Syrian ruler Bashar al-Assad in his first known trip outside his country since the start of its conflict, a show of defiance to the West and a sign of Russia’s effort to position itself as the essential power broker in the region. Mr. Kerry will voice U.S. concern about Russia’s airstrikes against the Assad regime’s opponents and what Washington sees as a need to move toward a political transition in Syria that would remove Mr. Assad from power. However, U.S. expectations have been tempered by Russia’s military campaign. “The secretary is a pragmatist, here,” said John Kirby, the State Department spokesman. “He recognizes that not everybody shares that view.” Mr. Kirby said U.S. officials weren’t surprised by Mr. Assad’s visit to Moscow, “given the relationship that Syria has with Russia, and given the recent military activities by Russia in Syria on behalf of Bashar al-Assad.” In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin was shown in a video released Wednesday sitting opposite Mr. Assad in the Kremlin. Mr. Putin said the Syrian government had “achieved significantly positive results” in its fight against an array of opposition forces, and was prepared to help lead the country to a political solution to end …Read More

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