Russian President Vladimir Putin in a surprise meeting with the Syrian foreign minister has pledged his support for Syrian President Bashar Assad. Syria’s crisis, which began in March 2011, has killed more than 220,000 people. Russia has been seen as a key to a peaceful solution.
Russia has previously rebuffed suggestions that Assad’s resignation could help put an end to the war. Russian news agencies on Monday quoted Putin as telling Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem that Russia’s support for “Syria, the Syrian leadership and the Syrian people remains unchanged.” Putin also called on other countries in the Middle East to help Syria fight armed Islamic factions that now control parts of the Syrian capital and large parts of the city’s suburbs.