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Russia Backs Annan's Peace Plan For Syria

A staunch Syrian ally, Russia on Friday welcomed the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) statement declaring support for the U.N.-Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan's demand for a halt to military offensives and troop pullout from Syrian cities and towns by April 10.

In a statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry urged the Syrian government to "implement urgently and visibly its commitments… to cease troop movements towards population centers, cease all use of heavy weapons in such centers, and begin a pullback of military concentrations in and around population centers… not later than 10 April 2012."

The statement also called on all parties involved in the conflict to "cease armed violence in all its forms within 48 hours" after the April 10 deadline, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.

It said implementation of Annan's proposals "opens a real opportunity… for launching a full-fledged dialogue in Syria and returning the situation into a peaceful stream, on condition of constructive cooperation between all sides involved in the conflict."

The Foreign Ministry statement indicates a shift in Russia's policy toward Syria since it, along with China, vetoed a UNSC resolution on Syria earlier.

Annan told the Security Council on Monday that the Syrian authorities had accepted the April 10 deadline. However, Western diplomats and officials, as well as some Russian analysts, have been skeptical about President Bashar al-Assad's intentions, saying he was playing for time and could fail to comply with the peace plan to end the violence. The U.N. estimates that the popular revolt against his regime that broke out an year ago has claimed more than 9,000 lives so far.

by RTT Staff Writer

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