November 18, 2013 / 8:35 AM / 5 years ago

Syrian delegation holds talks in Moscow on peace conference

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A Syrian government delegation met Russian officials on Monday to discuss plans for an international peace conference on the conflict in the Middle East nation.

Children walk past damage that was caused by shelling from forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, activists said, along a street in Duma neighbourhood in Damascus November 17, 2013. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh

The United States, Russia and the United Nations are trying to convene the conference in Geneva to try to end the civil war in the Middle Eastern nation. Interfax news agency said a senior Iranian official was also due in Moscow for talks on Syria.

The meetings follow a telephone call on Thursday between President Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad which the Kremlin said was their first since Putin returned to the Russian presidency in 2012.

Russia has been Assad’s most powerful backer during the conflict, sending arms and blocking Western efforts to condemn or pressure Assad.

The Syrian delegation, led by Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad, entered the Foreign Ministry building in Moscow, where Russian news agencies reported they were to meet Deputy Foreign Ministers Mikhail Bogdanov and Gennady Gatilov.

A Russian diplomatic source said the Syrians might meet Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday.

Writing by Steve Gutterman, Editing by Timothy Heritage

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