Russia and Iran have been the staunchest allies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad throughout an armed uprising, and any understandings they might reach with Assad's foes could help overcome the two sides' refusal to negotiate.
At an annual international security conference in Munich, Syrian National Coalition leader Moaz Alkhatib had talks with Russia's Sergei Lavrov that may have been made possible by Alkhatib signalling readiness to talk to Damascus. "Russia has a certain vision but we welcome negotiations to alleviate the crisis and there are lots of details that need to be discussed," Alkhatib said after the meeting.
After a 45-minute meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, Alkhatib told Reuters: "We agreed we have to find a solution to end the suffering of the Syrian people." He also met separately with US vice-president Joe Biden and UN special envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi. Alkhatib's purpose in his meetings was "to discuss finding a way to remove the regime with the least possible bloodshed and loss of life," he said.
Russia has blocked three UN Security Council resolutions aimed at pushing out Assad out or pressuring him to end the civil war, in which more than 60,000 people have died. But Moscow has also tried to distance itself from Assad by saying it is not trying to prop him up and will not offer him asylum.