- Associated Press - Sunday, March 25, 2012

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the U.N.-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.

Mr. 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 President Bashar Assad from U.N. 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,” Mr. Medvedev told Mr. 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.”

The U.N. Security Council last week endorsed Mr. 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,” Mr. Annan told Mr. Medvedev.

Syria is Russia’s last remaining ally in the Middle East and is a major customer for its arms industry. But Moscow recently has shown impatience with Syria, with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov pointedly criticizing Mr. Assad for being too slow to implement long-needed reforms.

Mr. Lavrov met earlier in the day with Mr. Annan and urged him to work with both sides in the Syrian conflict to end the violence, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Mr. Lavrov also called on the international community not to support one side over the other, the statement said.

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