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Syria's foreign minister meets Putin, says Russia wants to boost relations with Assad

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MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin wants closer ties with Syria's beleaguered president and tighter cooperation between Moscow and Damascus, Syria's foreign minister said Wednesday after meeting the Russian leader.

Walid al-Moallem said that during the talks in the city of Sochi, Putin "confirmed the determination of Russia to develop relations with Syrian President Bashar Assad" and "strengthening the strategic partnership between our countries."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Russia supports the proposal floated by the UN envoy to Syria for local cease-fires, which Assad has said is worth studying. The Islamic State group's onslaught in Syria and Iraq has given greater urgency to international efforts to find a solution for Syria's conflict, which has killed more than 200,000.

Previous attempts and two rounds of peace talks in Switzerland earlier this year, however, failed to yield any progress as each side remained convinced it can win the war militarily.

Lavrov said he did not expect another wide-ranging round of talks like those in Switzerland.

"If you are counting on the announcement of another conference like the one that was called in Montreux this January with the participation of 50 states, thousands of journalists, TV lights," he said, "then such a conference won't be."

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