Russian FM Says Syrian Rebels Have 50 Stingers
Nov. 6, 2012 - 08:41AM By AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
AMMAN — Syrian rebels under increasing attack from regime warplanes have
obtained 50 Stinger shoulder-launched missiles, Russian Foreign Minister
Sergei Lavrov said in Amman on Nov. 6 after talks with a top dissident.
Lavrov also stressed after his meeting in the Jordanian capital with Syria’s
defected former prime minister Riad Hijab that he planned to work with
opposition groups to help end the conflict that has ravaged Syria for more
than 19 months.
“Russia knows that the Syrian rebels have obtained 50 Stinger missiles from
outside to hit (regime) jet fighters,” Lavrov told reporters, according to
an Arabic translation of remarks he made in Russian.
“Those who are supplying arms to the opposition are delivering systems that
are not intended for defense. There is confirmed information that on Syrian
territory there are over 50 Stingers,” he said, as later quoted by Russia’s
Interfax news agency.
“You know perfectly well what Stingers are intended for, all the more so
that the leaders of the (rebel) Syrian Free Army have repeatedly said that
civilian planes will be a legitimate target.”
Russian Chief of Staff General Nikolai Makarov in October said Syrian rebels
had obtained shoulder-launched missile systems, including Stingers, made by
the United States, but added it was not clear who had delivered the weapons.
At the time, the United States vehemently denied it had supplied the rebels
with any lethal weapons.
The first inkling that the rebels had access to shoulder-launched weapons
came in July, when U.S. broadcaster NBC News reported that the FSA had
obtained two dozen Stingers, also known as MANPADS, delivered via Turkey.
Lavrov, speaking Nov. 6 at a joint news conference with Jordanian
counterpart Nasser Judeh, said he had stressed in his talks with ex-premier
Hijab, who defected to Jordan in August, the need to ensure that “no party
exploits the situation to achieve military gain on the ground.”
“I have met with Hijab, and the goal of the meeting was to find a mechanism
to stop the violence in Syria and save Syrian lives,” Lavrov said.
“Hijab was ready to listen to us, and we will work with him and other Syrian
Lavrov also told reporters that Moscow backs the return to Syria of
international monitors, while reiterating Moscow’s objections to U.S.-led
calls for the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and stressing the
need for dialogue between the warring parties.
In July, world powers agreed in Geneva on a plan for a transition in Syria
that did not make an explicit call for Assad to quit power, although the
West swiftly made clear it saw no role for him in any unity government.
However, Assad’s allies in Beijing and Moscow insist that it is up to
Syrians themselves to determine their future without foreign interference.
For his part, Judeh said “dialogue with Russia is important to find a
solution to the crisis in Syria,” where monitors say more than 36,000 people
have been killed since an anti-regime uprising erupted in mid-March last
Lavrov, on a two-day visit to Jordan, is also due to meet separately with
King Abdullah II and Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas.