MOSCOW — Russia has sent a naval flotilla of six warships led by an anti-submarine destroyer to its naval base at the Syrian port of Tartus, the Interfax news agency said Tuesday.
The Admiral Chabanenko and three landing craft have left their home port of Severomorsk in the Arctic Circle on their way to the Mediterranean where they will be joined by the Russian patrol ship Yaroslav Mudry as well as an assistance vessel, a military source told the agency. “The program of the voyage includes a call in the Syrian port of Tartus,” the unnamed source told the news agency.
Russia has been bitterly criticized by the West for failing to cut military ties with Syria despite the conflict between the regime and opposition rebels that has claimed about 17,000 lives in the 16-month uprising.
Russia also said it wanted to host a new meeting of foreign powers on the Syria crisis but stressed that the talks should not decide President Bashar Al-Assad’s fate.
Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov also said the attempt in Geneva to save Kofi Annan’s peace plan needed to be continued with the involvement of countries such as Iran, which both Washington and European powers strongly oppose.
Meanwhile, Annan met top Iranian officials before flying to Iraq, as he sought the help of key regional players in shoring up his tattered peace plan for Syria after meeting President Bashar Al-Assad.
Th peace envoy underlined Tehran’s importance in international efforts to stem the bloodshed, following talks with Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi.
“Iran can play a positive role,” Annan said, adding that he would continue to work with the Iranian leadership to resolve the crisis.
Annan then flew to Baghdad for talks with Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki on the Syria conflict.
After his Monday meeting with Assad, Annan said he had agreed with the Syrian president on a new political “approach” to ending the crisis in Syria that he would put to the rebels.
“We discussed the need to end the violence and ways and means of doing so. We agreed an approach which I will share with the armed opposition,” Annan said in Damascus, before flying to Tehran, where he also met Iran’s top security official Saeed Jalili. — Agencies