Russia 'Ready to Host' Syria Regime, Opposition for Talks

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Russia is ready to host informal talks between Syrian President Bashar Assad's government and the opposition, ITAR-TASS quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov as saying on Wednesday.

The news agency quoted Bogdanov, who represented Russia at talks in Geneva on Tuesday with U.S. officials and U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, as saying that the consultations "do not necessarily have to end in some sort of agreement."

It was most important to "create an atmosphere for (future) talks," the news agency quoted Bogdanov as saying in Geneva.

Bogdanov added that some opposition groups have already agreed to come to Moscow, although he provided no further details, the ITAR-TASS report said.

The Russian diplomat explained that the talks could pave the way for the staging of a formal Geneva 2 conference involving the warring parties and world powers as well as regional Arab states.

The Geneva 2 conference has been delayed throughout the year because of disagreements about who might attend and some rebel leaders' insistence on making Assad's ouster a precondition for the meeting.

Brahimi said on Tuesday that he still hoped the Geneva 2 meeting could be held before the end of the year.

Bogdanov said the informal Moscow meeting could offer the opportunity for "people to simply meet each other and discuss problems now standing before the Syrian people -- both those represented by the government and the opposition," Interfax reported.

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