April 6, 2012 - 20:43 AMT
Muallem to visit Moscow for Syria crisis talks

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem will discuss the crisis in his country and the development of relations with Russia on a rare visit to Moscow next week, the foreign ministry said Friday, April 6, according to AFP.

Muallem is to arrive in Moscow on Monday for a visit that will include talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the ministry said in a statement on its website. The ministry has indicated that the talks would be on Tuesday.

"The sides will exchange views on a number of international and regional questions, above all the development of the difficult situation in Syria," it said in a statement.

"Questions concerning the future development of the traditionally friendly and multi-faceted Russia-Syria relations will be discussed in the talks," it added, without giving further details on the agenda.

Russia has in the last months irked the West by refusing to back calls for President Bashar al-Assad to step down and by blaming the government and the rebels equally for the violence rocking the country.

But on Thursday Moscow supported a UN Security Council statement calling on Syria to "urgently" move to keep an April 10 deadline agreed with UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan to withdraw troops and weapons from protest cities.

The foreign ministry statement said that Russia had an "objective balanced position" on the crisis that had won "recognition and deep respect" from the Damascus regime.