Russia's foreign minister says Moscow consultations between representatives of the Syrian government and the opposition should help pave the way for a peaceful settlement.

Sergey Lavrov told participants of the meeting that support for Syria as a sovereign, united and secular state could be the basis for moving toward a compromise.

He said Wednesday that the parties should focus on working out confidence-building measures between the government and the opposition, negotiating local cease-fires, removing obstacles to humanitarian aid deliveries and freeing prisoners.

Russia, which has staunchly backed Syrian President Bashar Assad throughout the nearly four-year civil war, hoped that hosting the consultations could help raise its international profile amid tensions with the West over Ukraine.

Top opposition groups have refused to attend the consultations.