Medvedev: Annan is Syria's last chance
Moscow - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told the UN and Arab League envoy to Syria on Sunday that his mission "may be the last chance 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 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.
Syria is Moscow's last remaining ally in the Middle East and is a major customer for Russia's arms industry. But Moscow has recently shown impatience with Syria, with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov pointedly criticising Assad for being too slow to implement long-needed reforms.
"We highly value your efforts," Medvedev told Annan in 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."
Medvedev's foreign policy adviser, Sergei Prikhodko, said in a briefing statement on Saturday that Russia's top priority for Syria is a swift halt to the violence and to persuade the opposition "to sit at the negotiating table with government representatives and reach a peaceful resolution of the crisis".