(File image) Russian President Vladimir Putin

Moscow - Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday he regretted Kofi Annan was leaving his role as international peace envoy for Syria and called the situation there “a tragedy”, Russian news agencies reported.

Annan said on Thursday he would quit, frustrated by “finger-pointing” and a stalemate at the U.N. Security Council while the armed rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad was becoming increasingly bloody.

“Kofi Annan is a very respectable person, a brilliant diplomat and a very decent man, so it's really a shame,” Putin said in London, according to Interfax. “But I hope that the international community's efforts aimed at ending the violence will continue.”

Russia has shielded Assad's government from increased international pressure by vetoing, along with China, three U.N. Security Council resolutions backed by Western and Arab states.

Russia also said it would not back another draft resolution now before the U.N. General Assembly, saying it was unbalanced and put too much blame for spiralling violence on the Assad government. - Reuters