MOSCOW: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Saturday held his first direct talks with Syrian opposition chief Moaz Al Khatib, Russian news reports quoted a diplomatic source as saying.
The meeting was held on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, the reports said, without disclosing the substance of the talks.
The meeting came just days after Khatib said he was ready to negotiate with the Damascus regime, subject to conditions such as the release of some 160,000 Syrian detainees.
Lavrov had earlier on Saturday held separate talk with US Vice President Joe Biden and UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi amid strong disagreement between Moscow and Washington about ways to end the Syria conflict.
Russia’s top diplomat said Moscow shared Washington’s concern about the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria but considered the situation to be safe at this stage.
“We co-ordinate this issue (chemical weapons) with the Americans on a daily basis. We have reliable information that for now, the Syrian government has control of the chemical weapons, that the situation is safe,” Lavrov said in his address to the conference.
“I think that this (the use of chemical weapons) is a ‘red line’ for everyone. We are categorically against the use of any arms.”
Talks between Moscow and rebel leaders have been rare and on one previous occasion last year ended with the opposition demanding a formal apology from Russia for its stance.
Meanwhile, a senior Iranian security official pledged on Saturday the full support of Tehran for the Syrian regime, its close ally, Syrian state television said.
“We will give all our support so that Syria remains firm and able to face all the arrogant (Western powers’) conspiracies,” said Saeed Jalili, who heads the Supreme National Security Council and who is visiting Damascus.
“The Israeli aggression and arrogant international forces have tried to take revenge by attacking the resisting Syrian people,” said Jalili, who described Israel and the West’s attempts as “desperate.”
Jalili was referring to an alleged Israeli air strike on Wednesday that a US official said hit a military complex and missiles near the Syrian capital.