Russia Plans Mideast Forum

APSyria's foreign minister seeing Lavrov off at the airport on Thursday.
DAMASCUS, Syria -- Russia is preparing to host a Middle East peace conference this year that will try to restart talks between Israel and Syria about the occupied Golan Heights, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Thursday.

"We have not issued invitations, but we're working out how to incorporate various suggestions," Lavrov told reporters after meeting President Bashar al-Assad.

The conference would be a follow-up to a U.S.-hosted meeting in Annapolis in November, which resumed peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian administration, led by President Mahmoud Abbas, Lavrov said. He had announced plans to host the next Middle East peace conference after the Annapolis talks. He said Thursday that everyone in Annapolis had agreed to the Moscow conference.

Lavrov also met members of the exiled leadership of the Palestinian militant group Hamas in Damascus before flying to Israel.

Sergei Kiprichenko, Russia's ambassador to Syria, said Lavrov's meetings in Israel would try to nail down a more specific date for the conference.