Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made a surprise visit to the Black Sea resort city of Sochi for talks with his Russian counterpart about Syria’s bloody seven-year conflict.
"Stability is improving, and all that opens the doors to the political process, which we started a while ago," Assad told Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to a transcript of the May 17 meeting released by the Kremlin.
At the meeting, which had not been announced in advance, Putin congratulated the Syrian leader on what he said were significant successes on the battlefield achieved by the Syrian military.
"After these military successes, additional conditions have doubtless been created for the renewal of a fully fledged political process," he was quoted as saying.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Assad informed the Russian president of his decision to send a delegation to the United Nations to discuss reforming the country's constitution as part of a UN-sponsored peace process.
The two leaders emphasized the importance of creating conditions for a political solution to the conflict in Syria, he also said.
A posting on the Syrian presidency's Facebook page said Assad and Putin also discussed economic cooperation and growing investments by Russian companies in Syria.
Since fighting broke out in Syria in 2011, the Syrian president has traveled three times to Russia for talks with Putin -- visits that underscored Moscow's status as Assad's chief backer.
The two presidents last met in December at a Russian military air base in Syria's coastal province of Latakia.
Moscow has given Assad’s government crucial support throughout the Syrian conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands of people, allowing Damascus to make large territorial gains in recent months against rebels.
But rebel factions still control large parts of northwestern and southwestern Syria, while a Kurdish-led alliance backed by the United States holds most of the northeast.