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“Aleppo airport would then be used for flying in aid, delegations and diplomats. It would serve as a hub for a self-administered area,” he said, though he acknowledged concerns that the regime would just bomb the runway to disable it.

Also Wednesday, Syria’s former Foreign Ministry spokesman made his first comments since disappearing in December, saying he left the country because “of the polarization and violence that left no place for moderation and diplomacy.”

Jihad Makdissi, who was known for defending Mr. Assad’s regime in fluent English, said in a statement sent to the Abu-Dhabi-based Sky News Arabia that he did not go to Europe or the U.S. after leaving Syria. He did not say where he currently is, adding, “I have no secrets that anyone would want.”

Mr. Makdissi said the uprising has “legitimate demands” but left unclear whether he considers his departure a defection.

The 23-month-old conflict in Syria has defied all international attempts to calm the bloodshed.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov on Wednesday said Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem will travel to Moscow at the end of the month, the state RIA Novosti news agency reported.

Mr. Bogdanov also said Mouaz al-Khatib, the leader of the Syrian National Coalition umbrella opposition group, is expected in Moscow “in the next two to three weeks.”

It was unclear whether the meetings were related to Mr. al-Khatib’s recent offer to hold talks with officials from Mr. Assad’s regime. Mr. al-Khatib has said he would be willing to meet outside the country or in “liberated areas” in northern Syria.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry issued a statement stressing that Mr. al-Moallem’s visit to Moscow has nothing to do with the coming trips by opposition groups to Russia, reasserting that any dialogue “must be on Syrian territory.”

Russia had been one of Mr. Assad’s closes allies since the beginning of the uprising, shielding the regime in Damascus from tougher sanctions by the U.N. The United States and its European allies have backed the opposition.

In Moscow, the head of Russia’s state arms trader said Wednesday that it will continue supplying weapons to Mr. Assad’s government despite the escalating civil war.

Anatoly Isaikin, the director of Rosoboronexport, said Russia sees no need to stop arms trade with Syria, as it isn’t prohibited by the United Nations. Mr. Isaikin dismissed Western criticism of Russian arms sales to Damascus, saying that his company has delivered only defensive weapons.

“In the absence of sanctions, we are continuing to fulfill our contract obligations,” Mr. Isaikin told reporters. “But these aren’t offensive weapons. We are mostly shipping air defense systems and repair equipment intended for various branches of the military.

• Associated Press writers Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow and Bassem Mroue in Beirut contributed to this article.