Russia defends missiles for Syria, slams lift of embargo

Russia will not scrap plans to deliver an air defence system to Syria despite Western opposition because it would help deter "hotheads" intent on intervention in the two-year-old conflict.

Russia defends missiles for Syria, slams lift of embargo

World Bulletin / News Desk

Russia will not scrap plans to deliver an air defence system to Syria despite Western opposition because it would help deter "hotheads" intent on intervention in the two-year-old conflict, the deputy foreign minister said on Tuesday.

It also accused the European Union of "throwing fuel on the fire" by letting its own arms embargo on Syria expire.

Moscow had been urged to refrain from sending high-precision S-300 missile systems to President Bashar al-Assad's government, which is battling a Western and Gulf Arab-backed insurgency.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov suggested they were useful in deterring intervention.

"We think this delivery is a stabilising factor and that such steps in many ways restrain some hotheads from exploring scenarios in which this conflict could be given an international character with participation of outside forces," he told a news conference.

Russian officials have not disclosed whether S-300s have actually been sent to Syria and Ryabkov would not specify.

"I can't confirm or deny that these deliveries have taken place, I can only say that we will not disavow them," Ryabkov said. "We see that this issue worries many of our partners but we have no basis to review our position in this sphere."

Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said on Tuesday that S-300s had not left Russia yet, seeming to contradict Israel's air force chief, who said last week the shipment of the missiles was on its way to Syria.

Russia has been Assad's most powerful ally during the 26-month-old conflict, opposing sanctions and blocking, with China, three Western-backed U.N. Security Council resolutions meant to pressure the government to stop fighting.

Moscow has vehemently opposed military intervention or arming Syrian rebels while defending its right to deliver arms to the government, its long-time client - though it says it has been supplying only defensive weapons under existing contracts.

Earlier Ryabkov said the European Union's failure to renew an arms embargo on Syria would undermine the chances for peace talks that Moscow and Washington are trying to organise.

"The European Union is essentially throwing fuel on the fire of the conflict," he repeated at his news conference.

His comments were echoed by Putin's press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, who also criticised a visit to Syria on Monday by U.S. Senator John McCain, who met rebels fighting Assad's government.

Russia said on Tuesday the European Union's failure to renew an arms embargo on Syria would undermine the chances for peace talks that Moscow and Washington are trying to organise.

"This does direct damage to the prospects for convening the international conference," Russian news agency Itar-Tass quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying of the EU move, which will allow EU nations to supply arms to Syrian rebels.

EU governments failed to bridge their differences on Monday, but decided to allow a ban on arming the opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government to expire.

Britain and France, which opposed renewing the embargo, have made clear they will not deliver arms "at this stage", but EU officials said the commitment effectively expires on Aug. 1.

Russia and the United States announced on May 7 that they would try to bring Assad's government and its opponents to a conference to seek an end to the 26-month-old conflict in which more than 80,000 people have been killed.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met again in Paris late on Monday to discuss the proposed conference but did not announce any specific plans. 

Last Mod: 28 Mayıs 2013, 17:39
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