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Syrian President Bashar Assad made a surprise visit to Russian Federation to meet President Vladimir Putin on Thursday at his summer residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Western sanctions have complicated sales of Russian arms, but Moscow is ready to work under the challenging conditions and export more military equipment to other countries than planned, Tass news agency quoted Vladimir Kozhin, a presidential aide, as saying in March.

A day after United Nations special envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura warned a regime assault on the rebel-held area of Idlib could affect 2.3 million people, Putin met Assad in the southern Russian city of Sochi.

The two leaders in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Putin told Assad that in the light of success of the Syrian army foreign forces should be withdrawn from the war-torn country.

Putin said the next task is "economic recovery and humanitarian assistance to the people who found themselves in a hard situation". Merkel has already said that the Syrian war has grown into a conflict of "gigantic proportions", and it is impossible to be solved without backing from Russia, Europe and others - but not the US. The UN has hosted several rounds of peace talks in Geneva that have made no progress towards ending the conflict.

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"We know that will not be easy since there are countries which do not want stability to return to Syria".

They said issues on the table may include economic impact on India and Russian Federation in the wake of the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, the situation in Afghanistan, Syria, threat of terrorism and matters relating to upcoming Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and BRICS summits.

Regime forces recaptured Ghouta from rebels last month after a ferocious offensive that displaced tens of thousands, both to government-controlled zones around Damascus and to opposition-held parts of northern Syria.

Syria's conflict began with mass protests against the Assad family's decades-long rule.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the meeting, which had not been announced in advance, took place on Thursday.


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