MOSCOW (AP) _ President Hafez Assad of Syria met today with President Mikhail S. Gorbachev for talks expected to focus on Soviet-Syrian relations and the Middle East situation, Tass reported.

The official Soviet news agency said Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze and Defense Minister Dmitri T. Yazov attended the first part of the discussion, then left the two leaders to talk one-on-one.

''It is expected that great attention will be devoted to issues of Soviet- Syrian cooperation, joint actions on the international arena and the Middle East,'' Tass said.

Details of the discussions were not immediately available.

The Soviet Union has traditionally been Syria's main backer, but that has been changing as Moscow pursues detente and reforms at home, and Syria has been trying to cultivate better ties with the West.

The loss of Soviet support was seen as a key reason for Syria's role in the freeing of U.S. hostage Robert Polhill after 39 months in captivity in Lebanon.

Tass said Assad is to visit Moscow for two days and that foreign ministers of the two countries will sign a protocol on consultations. It gave no further details of the delegation's itinerary.