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Qatar's ruler meets Russian president for Syria talks

Russia and Qatar have sought to narrow their differences on Syria a week before the scheduled Syrian peace talks in Geneva.

On his first visit to Moscow, Qatar's Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani emphasised Russia's role in the region and voiced hope for finding a peaceful solution at the start of his negotiations with President Vladimir Putin.

Russia and Qatar have stood on the opposite sides of the Syrian conflict since it erupted in 2011, with Moscow staunchly backing Syrian president Bashar Assad and Doha supporting his enemies.

Mr Putin began the Kremlin talks by hailing Qatar's role in regional affairs and voicing hope that they would be able to "search for ways of settlement of the most difficult issues".

The conflict in Syria, which began nearly five years ago with protests against Mr Assad, has morphed into an all-out war that has killed 250,000 people and displaced millions.

Mr Al-Thani said at the start of talks with Mr Putin that Qatar wants to develop ties with Russia and find a solution for problems "concerning stability of some of the countries of the region".

The Kremlin meeting comes just a week before the crucial peace talks in Geneva, which are to bring together the Syrian regime and its opponents.

The talks, set to start on January 25, are intended to launch a political process that should produce a new constitution and elections in a year and a half.

Hopes for their quick success are dim, with Mr Assad's forces scoring a series of battlefield gains which could make the government less inclined to negotiate a compromise.

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters after the talks that Russia and Qatar agreed on the need to convene the talks this month.

He added that the two nations agreed to "raise the efficiency of anti-terrorist action in the framework of international efforts".

His Qatari counterpart, Khalid bin Mohammed al-Attiyah, said the two leaders had agreed "on the need to search for a political settlement in Syria".


From Belfast Telegraph