Russia supplying arms to Syria under old contracts-Lavrov
Russian arms being sent to Damascus are part of old Soviet contracts and do
not violate international law, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
Reuters , Monday 5 Nov 2012
Moscow is supplying arms to Syria under Soviet-era commitments and were
meant for defence against external threats, not to support President Bashar
al-Assad, Russia's foreign minister told an Egyptian newspaper.
Russia sold the Syrian government $1 billion worth of weapons last year and
has made clear it would oppose an arms embargo in the United Nations
Security Council, contending that rebels would get weapons illegally anyway.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Egypt's state al-Ahram daily in
an interview published on Monday that the arms still being sent to Damascus
were part of old Soviet contracts and did not violate international law.
"We do not side with any faction in Syria's internal battle," Lavrov was
quoted as saying. "As for the Russian-Syrian technical military cooperation,
it aims to support Syria's defence capabilities in the face of external
political threat, and not to back Bashar al-Assad."
He accused foreign powers of arming the opposition to topple the government
in breach of international law, adding that such weapons could fall into the
hands of al Qaeda fighters.
Western powers back the rebels but say they have stopped short of sending
arms. Qatar, which has been an outspoken critic of Assad and called for a
no-fly zone, has also denied providing arms but says it does give logistical
and humanitarian support.
"It was the Soviet Union that supplied Syria with main weapons but at
present we are in the process of finalising the implementation of our
commitments which are linked primarily to the supply of some air defence
systems," Lavrov told al-Ahram.
"These military exports are of a defensive nature and do not conflict with
international treaties," he said.
A Russian official said in July the Moscow would not deliver fighter planes
or other new weapons to Syria while the conflict there remained unresolved.
Russia and China, both permanent Security Council members, have vetoed three
Western-backed U.N. draft resolutions condemning Assad's government for its
handling of the uprising that began with peaceful demonstrations in March
The protests turned into an armed revolt after Assad used force to crush
opposition. About 32,000 people have been killed.
Lavrov, who met Lakhdar Brahimi, the international mediator on Syria, in
Cairo on Sunday, said the Syrian government and the opposition should be
forced to sit down to negotiations. Lavrov was due to meet the Egyptian
foreign minister later on Monday.