MOSCOW - Russia hosted Syrian and Iranian delegations for separate rounds of talks on Monday in a renewed diplomatic push for a Syrian peace conference in which Moscow says Tehran must also play a role.
President Vladimir Putin, who has stepped up his personal involvement on the Syrian issue, also called Iran's president to discuss the conflict as well as efforts to end the dispute over Tehran's nuclear program.
Moscow wants to show it still has weight in the Middle East and has been emboldened by its success in helping to broker a deal under which Syria will destroy its chemical weapons, but Washington is wary of allowing Iran to join Syrian peace talks.
"We regard Iran as a very important partner in all Middle Eastern affairs," Interfax news agency quoted Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov saying at the start of talks with Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.
The meeting "will give us an opportunity to jointly look at how developments in and around Syria unfold," Bogdanov said.