Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov pledged to boost ties with Iraq Wednesday as he began talks with visiting Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz.
Ivanov told Aziz that he wanted an "active dialogue" to discuss the whole range of bilateral issues.
"Today we must put in place the basis for our future relations with Iraq," Ivanov was cited as saying by Interfax news agency.
Before starting the talks, Ivanov said Moscow's two main tasks were to get UN sanctions against Iraq lifted and to stabilize the situation in the Persian Gulf region.
Russia lost some 30 billion dollars during the embargo period, ITAR-TASS quoted Ivanov as saying. The sanctions were imposed on Baghdad for its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
The two sides were also expected to discuss Russia's proposal for Kuwait to halt its support for the "no-fly" zones imposed on Iraq by London and Washington.
Iraq does not recognize the zones, imposed in both northern and southern Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War over Kuwait, which are not authorized by any specific UN resolution.
It has challenged the planes on a nearly daily basis since the United States and Britain launched air raids in December 1998.
The talks were due to focus also on the wider problem of security and stability in the Gulf area in view of the deepening of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
"It's essential to stabilize the situation in the Middle East and calm the situation in the Palestinian territories," said Ivanov.
Russia has proposed an international peace conference to broker an end to the two-month spiral of violence between Palestinians and Israelis that has plunged the Middle East into crisis.
But the idea has met with a cold reception in Israel -- MOSCOW (AFP)
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