Russian foreign minister in Iraq

AFP , Thursday 20 Feb 2014

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (Photo:Reuters)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrived in Baghdad on Thursday for meetings with senior Iraqi officials, the Iraqi foreign ministry said on its website.

Lavrov "arrived to the Iraqi capital Baghdad for talks and discussions with senior government officials on regional issues of mutual interest," the statement said, without providing further details.

One issue that will almost certainly be on the agenda is Syria, where rebels are battling forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad in a civil war that has claimed more than 140,000 lives since its outbreak in 2011.

The conflict has contributed to a year-long surge in violence in Iraq to levels not seen since 2008, when the country was just emerging from a brutal period of sectarian killings.

Lavrov's visit comes after the United States and Russian-sponsored peace talks between Syrian regime and opposition representatives broke down last week with no result and no date set for a third meeting.

Washington has accused Moscow -- a key Damascus ally -- of not doing enough to make sure the Syrian regime remains committed to the peace process, a charge Russia has rejected.

Arms sales may also be a topic of discussion in Lavrov's talks.

Iraq has purchased significant quantities of military equipment from Russia, but a $4.2 billion deal that would have made Moscow Baghdad's biggest arms supplier after the United States was scrapped over corruption concerns.

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