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Syrian deputy FM Muqdad begins talks in Russia

28 december 2012, 13:45
A Syrian government delegation led by Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Muqdad on Thursday began talks at the Russian foreign ministry on the crisis in the country, AFP reports citing Russian news agencies.

The delegation was at the foreign ministry in Moscow, the reports said, without giving further details about the nature of the talks, amid speculation of a new Russia-US initiative to end the crisis.

The reports did not say who was present at the meeting but the ITAR-TASS news agency on Wednesday said Muqdad's visit would include talks with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

The meeting comes amid a flurry of end-of-year diplomacy in Russia over the Syrian crisis that will also see talks between UN-Arab League Syria peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi and Lavrov on Saturday.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Amr is also arriving in Moscow later on Thursday for a visit that will include talks and a news conference with Lavrov on Friday.

Russia has to the fury of the West refused to cut cooperation with the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad in the conflict that according to activists has now claimed over 45,000 lives.

The diplomatic drive comes amid Western media reports of a new Russia-US initiative that would see Assad stay in power until 2014 while preventing him from further renewing his mandate.

Russia has insisted it will not prop up Assad's regime but has also emphasised Moscow will not seek to persuade the Syrian president to step down, saying it is up to the Syrian people to decide the country's future.

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