Russia Claims to Have Hosted Syrian Rebel Delegation Several Times

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Fighters from the Free Syrian Army's Al-Tahrir Brigade rest near their flag on the outskirts of Rakka, June 2015.Credit: Reuters

REUTERS - A Russian foreign ministry official said on Monday delegations from the Western-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) had visited Moscow several times, Russian news agencies reported, as Moscow stepped up political efforts to resolve the crisis in Syria. 

The Kremlin also said President Vladimir Putin, chief ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, talked on the telephone for the second time in five days with King Salman of Saudi Arabia, a country that has backed opponents of the Damascus government. 

Western powers have accused Russia of using its air force to bomb pro-Western rebel groups such as FSA since it started its air strikes on Sept. 30, declaring a campaign against terrorism. 

Foreign Ministry official Mikhail Bogdanov, answering a question on whether the Free Syrian Army group had visited Moscow last week, was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying: 

"Yes, they were here, including this (week) too. They are here all the time, and those are different people, someone is leaving, someone is arriving, but they all say that they are the representatives of Free Syrian Army," he said. 

Russia has shifted its position regarding Free Syrian Army rebels, saying on Saturday that Russia's airforce, which has been bombing targets in Syria since Sept. 30, would be ready to help the insurgents, if it knew where they were. 

The comments were aired days after Assad met Putin in Moscow to discuss a joint military campaign against Islamist militants in Syria. 
Russia says the main aim of its military efforts, namely its air support for Assad's forces, is to combat terrorism. 

Western powers, however, accuse Moscow only of trying to keep its long-time ally Assad in power and secure its interests, including a Naval facility. 

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