MOSCOW - Russia and the Arab League see signs of hope that the rival sides in the Syrian civil war are willing to start talks to end nearly two years of conflict.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and visiting Arab League head Nabil Elaraby said on Wednesday they were encouraged that both the Syrian government and the opposition had voiced readiness for dialogue.

"There have been signs of a positive tendency to start dialogue and both the government representatives and the opposition have begun speaking about this," Lavrov told a joint news conference with Elaraby.

"For now both sides still come up with preconditions but, according to our common view, once there is the key common readiness to start dialogue, then agreeing parameters for this process is just a matter of diplomatic art," he said.

Russia, a long-standing ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad and Syria's main arms supplier, has vetoed three UN Security Council resolutions that would out pressure on the Syrian government to cease violence in which some 70,000 people have been killed.

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