MOSCOW (Web Desk) – Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on an unannounced visit to Moscow.

Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Mr Assad “came on a working visit to Moscow” on Tuesday evening and held talks with Mr Putin, the BBC reported.

Russia began air strikes in Syria at the end of last month.

Moscow is targeting Islamic State and other militant groups fighting Mr Assad’s government.

Mr Peskov told reporters that the two leaders had discussed the fight against what he called terrorist groups, the continuation of Russian air strikes and Syria’s plans for its troops.

It is not clear if Mr Assad is still in Moscow or has returned to Damascus.

It was the first overseas visit made by Mr Assad since the civil war broke out in Syria in 2011, Syrian state TV reports.

In a transcript of comments by the two leaders, given out by the Kremlin, Mr Putin described Syria as a “friend” and said Russia was ready to contribute “not only to military action… but to the political process too” to bring peace to the country.

He said Russia was concerned that at least 4,000 citizens from the former Soviet Union were fighting with rebels groups in Syria. “We cannot permit them – once they get fighting experience and ideological training – to turn up in Russia”.