Bashar Al Assad visits Iran to thank Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Syrian leader makes first public visit to regional ally since uprising against his regime began in 2011

In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad, left, shakes hands with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, before their meeting in Tehran, Syria, Monday, Feb. 25, 2019. SANA said Assad met with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani on the trip, the first time he has traveled anywhere other than Russia since the Syrian civil war erupted nearly eight years ago. (SANA via AP)
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Syrian President Bashar Al Assad met Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran on Monday, in his first public visit to his closest regional ally since his country's civil war began eight years ago.

It was Mr Al Assad’s first trip to a foreign country other than Russia since the Syrian war broke out in 2011.

Syrian state TV broadcast footage of Mr Al Assad with Mr Khamenei and said the two leaders agreed “to continue co-operation at all levels for the interests of the two friendly nations”.

Mr Al Assad thanked Iran's leaders and people for what they gave to Syria during the war.

His office said “both sides expressed their satisfaction with the strategic levels reached between the two countries in all fields".

Tehran has given the Syrian government billions of dollars in aid since the conflict began and sent fighters to battle alongside his forces, helping to turn the war in Mr Al Assad’s favour.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and allied forces, particularly the Lebanese Hezbollah movement, played a major role in putting down the uprising against his regime.

Hezbollah sent its fighters across the border into Syria in the early years of the uprising to help avoid a regime defeat in the southern Syria where the uprising began.

Iran has also supplied the regime with trained and armed fighters from other countries, including Afghanistan.

The visit to Iran comes a day before a trip by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Russia for talks expected to focus on Iran’s role in Syria.