Russian officials hold meeting with Assad

Post-war efforts, trade discussed

Several Russian envoys met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and discussed a constitutional committee, trade, as well as the ways to improve Syria’s relations with neighbouring Arab countries, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said.

Formation of a constitutional committee is key to political reforms and new elections meant to unify Syria and end an eight-year war, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced about half of Syria’s pre-war 22 million population.

Syria’s opposition last year agreed to join the process of rewriting the Constitution under UN auspices following a peacemaking conference in the Russian city of Sochi. Russia has been a close ally of Mr. Assad and in 2015 launched a military intervention there to support his forces, turning the tide of the war in Mr. Assad’s favour. The Foreign Ministry said in a statement late on Friday that Mr. Assad met Russia’s Syria envoy Alexander Lavrentiev, Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin and several Russian Defence Ministry officials.

Separately, Interfax news agency, citing the Russian government, said Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov would meet Mr. Assad in Damascus later on Saturday to talk about cooperation in trade and economy.

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