Russian President Vladimir Putin met the Syrian regime's Bashar al-Assad in the Russian resort city of Sochi on Thursday, highlighting the importance of facilitating the "resumption of a full-fledged political process", according to the Kremlin.
Since fighting broke out in his country in 2011, Assad has traveled only rarely but has made three publicly-acknowledged visits to Russian Federation, each time for meetings with Putin.
Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since 2011 when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.
"Stability is growing, and all this opens the door to a political process that we started some time ago", he said.
"We know that will not be easy since there are countries which do not want stability to return to Syria".
"During today's meeting we have agreed upon the next steps with the Syrian president related to countering terrorism and the terrorist groups in Syria", Putin said. "But with you and other partners and friends, we will continue to make strong progress in the peace process", Assad was quoted as saying in the statement.
Critics of Russia's action, among them the United States and European states, say it is propping up an Assad leadership that has lost its legitimacy, and that its air strikes have killed large numbers of civilians.
"President [Putin] pointed out the Syrian Armed Forces' considerable achievements in struggle with terrorist units and congratulated Assad on this occasion". "Much has also been done within the framework of the Syrian National Dialogue Congress held in Sochi", he said.
Since fighting broke out in Syria in 2011, the Syrian president has traveled three times to Russian Federation for talks with Putin - visits that underscored Moscow's status as Assad's chief backer. "Happy Ramadan!" Putin told Assad in Sochi.