Syrian President Bashar al Assad met senior officials from his ally Russia in Damascus on Friday and Saturday to discuss upcoming peace talks, renting out Tartus port and trade between the two countries, state media in Syria reported.

Russia has helped Mr. Assad’s forces to take back most of the country but the  eight-year-long war continues. Russia’s Foreign Ministry said late on Friday that Mr. Assad had met Moscow’s Syria envoy Alexander Lavrentiev, Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin and several Russian officials.

However, while it said they had discussed the formation of a constitutional committee, which Syria’s opposition last year agreed to join under UN auspices after a Russian-hosted peace conference, Syrian state media did not mention it.

Syria’s official SANA news agency said meetings had focused on the next round of talks in Kazakhstan involving Syria, its allies Russia and Iran, and the rebels’ backer Turkey.

SANA said Mr. Assad had , met Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov to discuss trade and economic cooperation, “particularly in the fields of energy, industry and increasing trade”. Mr. Borisov said Russia hoped to sign the deal to rent the Tartus port within a week, according to TASS.

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