In the wake of Kofi Annan's announcement that he was resigning as the UN-Arab League special envoy to Syria, several countries have moved to consolidate their roles in international efforts to resolve to the conflict.
Russian news agencies reported that three Russian naval vessels with marines on board were on route to the Syrian port at Tartus and would arrive there early next week.
Russian news agencies ITAR-TASS and Interfax quoted a source in the General Staff of the Russian armed forces as saying the troop-transport ships "Aleksandr Otrakovsky," "Georgy Pobedonosets," and the "Kondopoga" were en route to the Syrian port.
The source was quoted as saying that each of the vessels was carrying a "reinforced squadron of some 120 marines."
Russia's Foreign Ministry released a statement on August 3 expressing "profound regret" at Annan's departure and calling for the international community to quickly find a replacement to take up Annan's work on Syria.
In Britain, Foreign Secretary William Hague said his country would increase what he called "nonlethal support" to rebel groups in Syria.
Commenting on Annan's resignation, Hague said it was a "bleak moment" for Syria's people and for diplomatic efforts toward bringing the violence there to an end.
Iran Blames West
Iran lashed out at Western nations, laying the blame for the failure of Annan's mission on the West.
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi charged that the West and several regional countries "did not want Annan to succeed."
Salehi echoed Annan's complaint that the international community had not supported his mediation efforts, blaming the lack on unity in the UN Security Council on the United States.
"What Mr. Annan spoke of is not about China or Russia," he said," the Americans are turning it around and pinning it on them [China and Russia]."
China's Foreign Ministry also reacted to Annan's resignation, saying Beijing regretted the decision "following five months of futile efforts and the absence of support for his mission from a number of great powers."
With reporting by Reuters, AFP, ITAR-TASS, and Interfax