Annan's Syria trip 'last chance' at peace, Russia says
'We will provide any assistance at any level,' Medvedev pledges to envoy
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told the UN and Arab League envoy to Syria on Sunday that his mission may be the final opportunity for Syria to avoid "a protracted bloody civil war" and promised Russia's full support.
Kofi Annan was in Moscow for meetings with Russia's president and foreign minister. He now travels to China, which along with Russia has shielded Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad from United Nations' sanctions over his crackdown on an uprising. More than 8,000 people have been killed since the uprising began a year ago.
"We highly value your efforts," Medvedev told Annan during the televised portion of their meeting. "This may be the last chance for Syria to avoid a protracted bloody civil war. Therefore we will provide any assistance at any level."
UN backed Annan's plan
The UN Security Council last week endorsed Annan's six-point plan, which includes talks and a daily two-hour halt in the fighting to provide humanitarian aid.
"Syria has an opportunity today to work with me and this mediation process to put an end to the conflict, to the fighting and really to allow access to those in need of humanitarian assistance as well as embark on the political process that will lead to a peaceful settlement," Annan told Russia's president.
Syria is Russia's last remaining ally in the Middle East and is a major customer for its arms industry. But Moscow has recently shown impatience with Syria, with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov pointedly criticizing Assad for being too slow to implement long-needed reforms.
Lavrov met earlier in the day with Annan and urged him to work with both sides in the Syrian conflict to end the violence, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Lavrov also called on the international community not to support one side over the other, the statement said.