The 23-month-old conflict in Syria has defied all international attempts to calm the bloodshed.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said Wednesday that Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem will travel to Moscow at the end of the month, the state RIA Novosti news agency reported.
Bogdanov also said that Mouaz al-Khatib, the leader of the Syrian National Coalition umbrella opposition group, is expected in Moscow ‘‘in the next two to three weeks.’’
It was unclear whether the meetings were related to al-Khatib’s recent offer to hold talks with officials from Assad’s regime. Al-Khatib has said he would be willing to meet outside the country or in ‘‘liberated areas’’ in northern Syria.
The Syrian Foreign Ministry issued a statement stressing that Moallem’s visit to Moscow has nothing to do with the coming trips by opposition groups to Russia, reasserting that any dialogue ‘‘must be on Syrian territory.’’
Russia had been one of Assad’s closes allies since the beginning of the uprising, shielding the regime in Damascus from tougher sanctions by the U.N. The United States and its European allies have backed the opposition.
In Moscow, the head of Russia’s state arms trader said Wednesday that it will continue supplying weapons to Assad’s government despite the escalating civil war.
Anatoly Isaikin, the director of Rosoboronexport, said that Russia sees no need to stop arms trade with Syria as it isn’t prohibited by the United Nations. Isaikin dismissed Western criticism of Russian arms sales to Damascus, saying that his company has delivered only defensive weapons.
‘‘In the absence of sanctions, we are continuing to fulfill our contract obligations,’’ Isaikin told reporters. ‘‘But these aren’t offensive weapons. We are mostly shipping air defense systems and repair equipment intended for various branches of the military.
Associated Press writers Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow and Bassem Mroue in Beirut contributed to this report.