Syrian Foreign Minister Holds Talks in Moscow

U.S. urges Syrian opposition to return to dialogue and meet new Secretary of State John Kerry in Rome on Thursday.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem is due to discuss ways to start a dialogue with the country's opposition Monday during talks in Moscow with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.

A Russian foreign ministry official told RIA Novosti that "Russia is exerting more efforts to find a rapid solution to the Syrian crisis."

Russia, a traditional ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, has recently reiterated its stand that only a political solution will solve the crisis in the war-torn Middle Eastern nation.

According to UN estimates, 70,000 people have died since the conflict began, in March 2011.

Diplomats in Beirut said the United States was urging the opposition to return to dialogue and meet new U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Rome on Thursday, after its representatives pulled out of the talks in protest at the international community's silence on the continuing bloodshed in Syria.

Russia has also invited the head of the main opposition coalition, Moaz al-Khatib, to visit Moscow. According to diplomats, a meeting between U.S. and Russian officials is due to take place in Berlin later this month to discuss the Syrian crisis.

Meanwhile, rebels were close to capturing a police academy in the town of Khan al-Assal, in the northern province of Aleppo, a watchdog said.

"If the rebels take this academy building, it will be a key victory for them because the whole of northern Aleppo province will then fall out of regime control," said Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.