New Delhi, Jan 11 Syrian Deputy Prime Minister Walid Al Moualem arrived here today on a four-day visit for talks with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and other leaders during which he is expected to seek India’s support for President Bashar al-Assad ahead of peace talks in Geneva (ALSO READ: Jammu and Kashmir: No indications yet on government formation).

Swaraj and Moualem, who is also Minister of Foreign Affairs, will hold wide-ranging talks tomorrow on a host of bilateral issues besides deliberating on the situation in Syria where Russia has intensified aerial attacks on ISIS strongholds.Moualem’s visit comes ahead of the UN-backed peace talks in Geneva aimed at eding its brutal civil war in which thousands of people have lost their lives.

Russia has been carrying out air strikes in Syria in support of President al-Assad since September, targeting the terror outfit ISIS which has seized vast swathes of land in that country.India has been supportive of the Russian strikes maintaining that terror groups must be dealt with effectively.The peace talks are slated for later this month and Moualem has already said that Syria was ready to participate in it.

Before coming to India, Moualem visited Russia and China, seen as an attempt to rally support for the current Syrian regime.More than 300,000 people have been killed in Syria in the past four years and seven million have fled to other countries due to the continuing civil war.The West is pressing for the ouster of the Syrian President but Russia and China are against the move.

India and Syria have friendly political relations. India’s support for the Palestinian cause and for the return of the occupied Golan Heights to Syria is appreciated by Syrians.President Assad had visited India in June 2008 while then President Prathibha Patil had visited Syuria in November 2010.