Russian deputy FM meets with Hezbollah chief
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Russian deputy FM meets with Hezbollah chief

In Beirut, Mikhail Bogdanov calls for Syria peace talks, indicates Moscow will arm Lebanese military against jihadists

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, left, meets with Russia's deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, right, at the Lebanese foreign ministry, in Beirut, Lebanon, Friday, Dec. 4, 2014. (photo credit: AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, left, meets with Russia's deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, right, at the Lebanese foreign ministry, in Beirut, Lebanon, Friday, Dec. 4, 2014. (photo credit: AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah met with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov in Lebanon over the weekend as part of the diplomat’s two-day trip to the region, which focused on the Syrian civil war.

Bogdanov arrived in Beirut on Thursday and met with Lebanese leaders, including Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, Prime Minister Tammam Salam, parliament speaker Nabih Berri, and former president Michel Suleiman. The Russian diplomat pledged that Russia would help arm Lebanon against Syrian rebel groups, and said Moscow was working to restart negotiations between the Syrian government and opposition without preconditions.

Both Russia and Hezbollah back the Syrian regime of President Bashar Assad, and both have condemned the US airstrikes against the Islamic State. Hezbollah has dispatched fighters to Syria to bolster Assad’s forces.

Bogdanov arrived at the invitation of the Lebanese government to celebrate 70 years of diplomatic ties between the two countries.

During his visit, Bogdanov said Russia was prepared to “help Lebanon’s army, police and security forces to effectively combat terrorist groups,” according to the Russian TASS news agency.

He called on Lebanon “to join forces to fight terrorism, which poses a threat not only to the Middle East but to the whole world.”

Bogdanov termed the situation “dangerous and alarming,” and called for dialogue between the Syrian opposition and government to resolve the four-year civil war that has claimed over 200,000 lives.

“It is impossible to find any fundamental solution to the problems without a dialogue involving all concerned parties,” he said.

The Russian diplomat said Moscow was negotiating with the rebel groups in an effort to restart peace talks.

“Our task is to improve consultations for preparing serious talks without preconditions,” he said.

“The Syrians should gather together and start a dialogue. This will make it possible to bring together views on all issues,” he said, noting that “the Syrian people will determine the fate of Syria and its future.”

AFP contributed to this report.

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