Moscow calls Tehran, meets with Syrian government behind closed doors
In a day full of diplomatic dealings, Russian President Vladimir Putin telephoned Iran's president Hassan Rouhani and met with Syrian government representatives in Moscow, according to Agence France-Presse reports.
Putin told the Tehran leader that he believes "there is a real chance" to resolve Iran's tense relationship with the international community over its nuclear programme, two days ahead of scheduled negotiations in Geneva between Iran and six world powers. The Russian leader also discussed the Syrian conflict with Rouhani, with both presidents expressing support for an international peace conference that seeks to end the war.
Earlier Monday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon announced that he hoped the proposed Geneva II peace conference would commence in mid-December, but no official date has yet been set.
Putin's call to Rouhani coincided with Syrian regime representatives' visit to Moscow Monday. Top Russian officials held closed-door consultations with the Damascus officials as part of Russia's efforts to move Syrian parties closer to the negotiation table. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennday Gatilov and Mikhail Baogdanov met with the Syrian officials only days after Putin held his first telephone talks in over two years with President Bashar al-Assad.
Russia also invited the Syrian opposition National Coalition (SNC) to participate in closed meetings in Moscow, but SNC president Ahmad Jarba declined the invitation due to other commitments, but affirmed the opposition's interest in meeting with Russia at a later date.
Moscow's foreign ministry did not release any immediate statement on the outcome of Monday's meetings, and the Syrian officials left the building without comment to the press.
It is not yet clear whether or not Assad's representatives will hold additional meetings with Moscow during their visit or at a later date.
Russia has been considered on the regime's "most important allies" and has previously provided weaponry to Damascus since the conflict began in early 2011.