Russia reaffirmed its rejection of international calls for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down while indicating support for the formation of a unity government to appease opposition groups, as the military continues a bloody conflict with rebel insurgents.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the conflict in Syria would have to be decided by the Syrian people and rejected U.N. envoy Kofi Annan's proposal for a transitional government that would remove Assad from power.

It is obvious that a transitional period is needed to overcome the Syrian crisis, Lavrov said. We are not supporting and will not support any external meddling. External players must not dictate  ...  to Syrians, but, first of all, must commit to influencing all the sides in Syria to stop the violence.

Opposition groups have rejected any proposal that will allow Assad to stay in power.

Russia has been criticized by the U.S. for selling weapons and ammunition to the Syrian government and has consistently used its U.N. Security Council vote to veto action to condemn and remove Assad.