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Russian foreign minister: Moscow meeting of Syrian gov't, opposition should help peace talks

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MOSCOW — Russia's foreign minister says Moscow consultations between representatives of the Syrian government and the opposition should help pave the way for a peaceful settlement.

Sergey Lavrov told participants of the meeting that support for Syria as a sovereign, united and secular state could be the basis for moving toward a compromise.

PHOTO: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, gesturing at center left, welcomes participants of consultations between representatives of the Syrian government and the Syrian opposition in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015. Lavrov said the meeting should pave the way for further talks on conditions for a political settlement. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, gesturing at center left, welcomes participants of consultations between representatives of the Syrian government and the Syrian opposition in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015. Lavrov said the meeting should pave the way for further talks on conditions for a political settlement. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

He said Wednesday that the parties should focus on working out confidence-building measures between the government and the opposition, negotiating local cease-fires, removing obstacles to humanitarian aid deliveries and freeing prisoners.

Russia, which has staunchly backed Syrian President Bashar Assad throughout the nearly four-year civil war, hoped that hosting the consultations could help raise its international profile amid tensions with the West over Ukraine.

Top opposition groups have refused to attend the consultations.

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