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UN Syria envoy in Moscow ahead of peace talks

© POOL/AFP/File | Special Envoy of The UN Secretary-General for Syria Staffan de Mistura in September 2017 he hoped to convene a new round of Syria talks in Geneva in the coming weeks

MOSCOW (AFP) - 

The United Nations Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura met Wednesday in Moscow with Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu ahead of a fresh round of talks aimed at ending Syria's six-year war.

The officials gathered to "discuss ways of moving from de-escalation zones towards a more stable political settlement in Syria," de Mistura was quoted as saying by a defence ministry statement.

Russia, a key backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has played a major role in the war and in diplomatic efforts to create and monitor four safe zones across the battle-scarred country.

Russia agreed during talks in Astana with Iran and Turkey -- who back opposing sides in the conflict -- to create the zones in the northern Idlib province, in central Homs, the Damascus suburb of East Ghouta and in southern Syria.

Violence has drastically decreased in the zones since their establishment this year, but conflict is still raging elsewhere in Syria, including a US-led aerial and ground assault on jihadists groups in the country's northeast.

The UN envoy said last month he hopes to convene a new round of Syria talks in Geneva in the coming weeks.

He has already hosted several previous rounds of negotiations, with the fate of Assad a key sticking point.

© 2017 AFP