Russia remains one of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad's few remaining backers, and use of the Syrian port of Tartus gives Russia's navy reach into the Mediterranean Sea. Recently, however, the Kremlin has shown signs of impatience with its longtime ally, including reports this week that Russia may finally be willing to help transition Assad from power. Russia has denied that it is shielding Assad. It insists that no foreign power can remove him from power, saying that can only be determined by the Syrian people.
Russia is organizing an international conference of influential countries that aims to find an end to the violence in Syria, which has gone on for over a year and according to the United Nations has claimed over 10,000 lives. RIA Novosti reported on Thursday that the conference would take place on June 30 in Geneva.
The United States has been skeptical of Russia's plans to invite Iran, which it sees more as part of the problem rather than the solution.