A Syrian delegation led by Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Maqdad has begun talks in Moscow on resolving Syria's 21-month-old uprising.
The group arrived on Thursday for meetings with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. The delegation is expected to discuss proposals made by peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.
Brahimi met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Monday and is due in Moscow on Saturday for talks with Russian leaders.
Syria's ally, Russia, has reportedly been trying to broker a peaceful transition of power in the country.
Meanwhile, Mr. Assad's government may have suffered another set-back. On Wednesday, a top military official who headed the feared military police told a pan-Arab TV station that he had “defected” and joined the Syrian opposition.
A video posted on a social media website shows General Abdul-Aziz Jassem al-Shallal saying that he left the government because the Syrian military police have strayed from their primary mission.
The U.S. State Department cautiously welcomed reports of al-Shallal's departure saying if the reports are true, it would be “yet another sign” that the Syrian regime is “crumbling from within.”
In another development, there are conflicting accounts about unrest in a northern province near the Turkish border. The opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says government shelling in a village near the town of Raqqa left at least 20 people dead, including eight children.
The state-run SANA news agency says an “armed terrorist group” launched an attack in the village that resulted in the deaths of civilians, including women and children. Syria has blamed much of the anti-government related unrest in “armed groups” and “terrorists.”
Separately, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory said at least 130 people were killed in violence across Syria, on Wednesday, including 51 civilians.
Another opposition group, the Syrian Revolution General Commission, said heavy shelling continued several regions of the country, including southern neighborhoods of Damascus.
“In the name of God E., I am General Abdul-Aziz Jassem al-Shallal, head of the military police. I have defected because of the deviation of the army from its primary duty of protecting the country and its transformation into gangs of killing and destruction, the destruction of cities and villages and committing massacres against our unarmed people who went out to demand liberty. Long live Syria free and strong.”