Russia’s foreign minister today said the United Nations Security Council will decide the fate of international mediator Kofi Annan's Syria peace plan, not the "Friends of Syria" group, which over the weekend called for the inclusion of clear deadlines for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, according to Reuters.
Sergey Lavrov's comments come hours before Annan is set to brief the UN Security Council over the plan, which is meant to help end ongoing violence there.
Rights groups say at least 9,000 Syrians have been killed in Assad's brutal crackdown on a yearlong anti-government uprising.
The "Friends of Syria" group urged that Assad be given a deadline to meet the terms Annan's plan and recognized the Syrian National Council as the country's "legitimate representative" as part of the 83-nation group's weekend summit in Turkey, according to The Jordan Times.
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Lavrov today hit out at the group's call for Assad be held to a strict timeline, according to Agence-France Press, saying "[u]ltimatums and artificial deadlines rarely help matters."
AP said the foreign minister balanced his criticism with a call for Assad to withdraw troops from Syrian cities.
Annan's proposal falls under the purview of the powerful UN Security Council, of which Russia is a veto-weilding member, not the "Friends of Syria" group, Lavrov said, telling reporters in Armenia that the "Security Council will judge who should implement his [Annan's] proposals, and how," according Reuters.
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Russia, China, and Iran all declined to attend the "Friends of Syria" weekend event. The two nations have twice blocked UN sanctions on Assad, but Moscow has recently shown support for Annan's peace deal.
Lavrov today explained Moscow's absence, according to Reuters, saying Russia had decided against it because Assad's representatives were not invited to the summit.
Syria imports most of its weapons from Russia.
Meanwhile, AFP said that a Russian navy destroyer is set to dock at a Syrian port within days as part of a planned visit to the region.