Syria, Iran welcome thaw in ties between Damascus and regional states

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The foreign ministers of Syria and its close ally Iran on Thursday welcomed a thaw in diplomacy between Damascus and regional states in the aftermath of last month's deadly earthquake, they said at a joint news conference in Damascus.

Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said Syria aimed to normalize relations with regional states after President Bashar al-Assad's political isolation for more than a decade of war.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said Iran welcomed any initiative for talks aimed at reaching an understanding in the region, including meetings of four countries - Iran, Russia, Syria and Turkey - aimed at resolving Syria's crisis.

Turkey backs rebels opposed to Assad's rule in a patch of land in the country's northwest.

Syria had been isolated by most regional states over Assad's deadly crackdown of protests against him, with the Arab League suspending Syria's membership in 2011 and many Arab countries withdrawing their envoys from Damascus.

But Assad has benefited from an outpouring of support by Arab states following the earthquake, which killed more than 5,900 people across his country, according to a tally of UN and Syrian government figures.

The foreign minister of Saudi Arabia said last month that isolating Syria was not working and that dialogue with Damascus was needed, especially to address the humanitarian situation there.

The foreign ministers of Jordan and Egypt both visited Damascus last month for the first time since the war began. The Egyptian minister’s visit came after Assad and Egypt’s President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi spoke by phone for the first time on February 7.

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