Rhetoric about Russian weapons transfers so Syria is stirring up, following U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s announcement that Moscow is sending in attack helicopters that “will escalate the conflict quite dramatically.”Russian foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is defending his country’s weapons sales to Syria and denies that the transfers have anything to do with helping the Syrian government shut down an increasingly violent civil uprising, reports Reuters.
“We are not violating any international law in performing these contracts,” he clarified to reporters at a news conference during a current visit to Iran. He said that Moscow is fulfilling previously-made weapons contracts for air defence systems.
Clinton has described Moscow’s claim that weapons transfers to Syria are unrelated to the present conflict as “Patently untrue.” The unrest in Syria has raged for over a year, since it began in March 2011.
The Journal reports Lavrov saying that Russian weapons are not intended to be used on “peaceful demonstrators.” That of course suggests that the weapons could still be used for those deemed “not peaceful”.
But he said, “I have announced time and again that our stance is not based on support for Bashar al-Assad or anyone else … We don’t want to see Syria disintegrate.” It’s worth noting, as CBS points out, that Syria hosts Russia’s only naval base on the Mediterranean Sea.
Russia also used the news conference as an opportunity to accuse the U.S. of supplying weapons to Syrian opposition forces.
“They are providing arms and weapons to the Syrian opposition that can be used in fighting against the Damascus government [the seat of Syrian government].”
The main opposition group — known as the Syrian National Council — told the NY Times that they’ve “recently received more powerful anti-tank missiles from Turkey, with the financial support of Saudi Arabia and Qatar.” The group says President Assad’s loyal forces have been deploying fiercer air assaults lately because opposition fighters are proving stronger than expected.
We reported earlier that the White House will not provide any official details about the aircraft, saying the information is classified, but Pentagon spokesman Capt. John Kirby acknowledged to Reuters: “We know that the Assad regime is using helicopter gunships against their own people.”
And the Pentgon boldly said yesterday that “It’s time for President Assad to go” along with harsh criticism of “deplorable and disgusting” violence in Syria.
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