DUBAI (Reuters) - Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem arrived in Tehran on Tuesday for talks with Iranian and Russian officials expected to focus on efforts to end the four-year-old war in his country.
Moallem will meet Mikhail Bogdanov, President Vladimir Putin's special envoy to the Middle East, on Tuesday evening before holding talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Wednesday, Iranian media reported.
Iran and Russia have stood by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, providing military and financial support, during the civil war, whereas the United States and some of its Gulf Arab allies have said Assad must leave office.
Iran and world powers led by the United States reached a nuclear agreement on July 14 but both sides have made it clear that the deal will not change their policies in the region.
Moualem on July 24 reiterated his government's view that Iran's support for Damascus would continue after the deal.
Speaking about Moualem's visit, Iranian deputy foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian suggested the chances of a diplomatic resolution of the war were growing.
"Fortunately we see a change in the strategy of regional players in the Syrian crisis. If four years ago they believed war is the only solution, now they prefer to focus on diplomacy," Amir-Abdollahian was quoted as saying by Fars News Agency.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Saudi Foreign Ministrer Adel al-Jubeir and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, meeting in Qatar on Monday, "acknowledged the need for a political solution to the conflict and the important role to be played by opposition groups in reaching that solution", a senior State Department official said.
In an article published in four Arab newspapers on Monday, Zarif suggested the formation of a regional dialogue committee to tackle the multiple crises in the Middle East.
"Nowhere in the world needs this mechanism more than the Gulf region, and the Middle East ... No one can fight against extremist groups like the Islamic State in Iraq, while helping them grow in Yemen and Syria,” Zarif said.
(Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin Writing by William Maclean; Editing by Mark Heinrich)