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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Syrian Visit Brings Even Closer Ties

MOSCOW -- Russia said Tuesday it must play a major role in finding a lasting peace in the Middle East after Syrian President Hafez Assad had talks with top Russian officials on expanding political and military cooperation.

Assad and President Boris Yeltsin said at the start of talks that they want to expand already close ties between the two nations, Russian officials said. Assad is in Moscow on a two-day visit.

Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said that Russia, as a co-sponsor of the Middle East peace process, must participate in finding a lasting peace in the region, but did not give any details, according to Russian news reports.

The Middle East situation was discussed at length and Russia called for talks between Syria and Israel to pick up at the point where they left off in 1996, Ivanov told reporters.

Russia also used the visit to seek Syrian support for building alliances or "poles" to counter what it sees as the global domination of the United States.

"Both presidents favor the idea of a multipolar world and stated that no diktat, whether by one or several nations, is possible," Ivanov was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.

Russia has clashed several times with the United States during the past year, most recently over NATO airstrikes against Yugoslavia. Moscow wants to be counted as a major global power and has been improving ties with ex-Soviet client states such as Syria and Iraq.

As part of Russia's policy, the role of the United Nations must be strengthened, Ivanov said. "Russia and Syria will do everything possible in this area," he said.

Assad, who laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Tuesday, invited Yeltsin to visit Syria, officials said.

Russia and Syria have sought to boost ties in recent years. This May, Russia and Syria signed a 10-year deal on cooperating in the peaceful uses of nuclear power.