News / Middle East

Envoy Says Russia Will Send Defense Missiles to Syria

Sergey Ryabkov, Deputy Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, addresses the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) conference at United Nations headquarters, May 2010 file photo..
Sergey Ryabkov, Deputy Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, addresses the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) conference at United Nations headquarters, May 2010 file photo..
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VOA News
A top Russian diplomat says Moscow will provide Syria advanced air missiles to deter any foreign intervention in the country.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told reporters Tuesday Moscow will send sophisticated S-300 anti-aircraft missiles as part of a contract signed several years ago.

Russia criticized the European Union's decision Monday to amend its arms embargo on Syria and allow weapons to be sent to the main opposition Syrian National Coalition, while keeping sanctions against the Syrian government.

Russia said the EU move will hurt efforts to hold a peace conference aimed at ending the country's violence.

Speaking after the EU announced its decision, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said there are no immediate plans to actually send weapons to the fighters trying to oust President Bashar al-Assad.

"This is a strong signal to the Assad regime, that it needs to engage on the political process and, as I have always said and as I have said to our parliament last week, we would only take the step of sending arms in company with other nations in carefully controlled circumstances and in compliance with international law," he said. "But this decision [Monday] gives us the flexibility in the future to respond to a worsening situation or to a refusal of the Assad regime to negotiate."

  • A boy sells juice near a damaged bus in Aleppo's Bustan al-Qasr neighborhood, May 30, 2013.
  • Free Syrian Army fighters hold weapons at their post in Aleppo's Bustan al-Qasr neighborhood, May 29, 2013.
  • Buildings that were damaged during clashes between forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad and Free Syrian Army fighters, near the Sayeda Zainab area of Damascus, May 29, 2013.
  • Relatives visit a grave at the Shi'ite fighters cemetery in Damascus, May 28, 2013.
  • Shi'ite fighters ride through the Sayeda Zainab area of Damascus with their weapons, May 28, 2013.
  • The inside of a damaged mosque in Dahra Abd Rabbo village, Aleppo, May 27, 2013.
  • U.S. Senator John McCain meets with U.S. troops in southern Turkey, May 27, 2013.  He also visited rebels inside Syria.  This picture was released on his Twitter account.
  • Syrians participate in the funeral prayer for Youssef Ghazi al-Sarmani, who was killed in fighting between rebel and government forces, May 27. The logo in red reads "Talbiseh".
  • A boy makes pastry at a shop in Darkush town, Idlib province, May 26, 2013.
  • A group of men smuggle diesel fuel from Syria to Turkey hoping to sell it at a higher price, across the Al-Assi River in Idlib, May 26, 2013.
  • Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad during clashes against Syrian rebels in Aleppo, May 26, 2013.
  • Supporters and relatives of Hezbollah members attend the funeral of a Hezbollah fighter who died in the Syrian conflict. The funeral took place in the Ouzai district in Beirut, May 26, 2013.
  • A Free Syrian Army fighter feeds pigeons in Homs, May 26, 2013.

Britain and France have been the main advocates of arming the Syrian rebels, while Austria and Sweden have led a small group resisting the move for fear it could worsen Syria's civil war.

The EU Foreign Affairs Council said it will revisit its position on actual arms shipments before August 1. Any decision will come after consultations with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and after considering the state of a proposed Syrian peace conference.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt expressed optimism about a political solution, and cautioned that now is not the time to send arms to Syria.

"I think it is very important that we have a very solid support for the political process," he said. "Because we now have the first possibility for a very long time, as a matter of fact since the last summer, for a political process and I think it is extremely important not to do anything to rock the boat. To start delivering weapons now would rock the boat. No one is intending to do that."

Syrian Opposition Undecided About Peace Conference

The EU recognizes the Syrian National Coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people and strongly encouraged the group Monday to take part in the peace talks.

The coalition has not made a formal decision about taking part as it struggles to overcome internal divisions. The Syrian government has agreed "in principle" to participate.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, right, meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, May 27, 2013, in ParisUS Secretary of State John Kerry, right, meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, May 27, 2013, in Paris
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US Secretary of State John Kerry, right, meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, May 27, 2013, in Paris
US Secretary of State John Kerry, right, meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, May 27, 2013, in Paris
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met Monday in Paris to discuss the proposed conference, and remained hopeful despite the challenges they face in pulling together the multi-national effort.

"It's not an easy task," Lavrov said. "It's a very tall order, but I hope that when the United States and the Russian Federation take this kind of initiative, the chances for success are there. We will do everything in our power to use those chances, and to make them realized."

Russia reiterated Monday its support for including Iran in the peace conference. Both Russia and Iran are Syrian allies. The United States has long criticized Iranian support for Mr. Assad, accusing Tehran of exacerbating the Syrian conflict rather than being part of the solution.

McCain Visits Syria

In another development Monday, influential U.S. Senator John McCain made an unannounced trip into Syria to meet with opposition fighters.

Syrian National Coalition spokesman Anas Abdah welcomed McCain's visit, explaining the importance of the senator's long-standing calls for greater U.S. assistance for the rebels.

"We think this is extremely significant because the senator has always supported the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people and the Syrian revolution since its beginning," he said. "He has also fought very hard within his country, in the U.S., for his government to take an active role in supporting the Syrian revolution and also in arming the Free Syrian Army."

Rebel commanders who met with McCain urged the United States to provide them with weapons and ammunition, enforce a no-fly zone against Mr. Assad's air force, and launch strikes against pro-Assad Lebanese Hezbollah militants in Syria and Lebanon.

The U.S.-based Syrian Emergency Task Force, which supports the Syrian opposition, said it organized McCain's trip, and published several photos showing the senator inside Syria.

The group's executive director, Mouaz Moustafa, said in an interview with CNN that McCain and rebel commanders also discussed ways to "marginalize" extremists who have emerged in Syria, and that the Free Syrian Army assured McCain that any weapons it receives will not fall into the wrong hands.

Free Syrian Army commander General Idris told the U.S. news site The Daily Beast, which first reported the visit, that McCain met with rebels on both sides of the Turkish-Syrian border. He said the rebels had come from all over Syria to see the prominent U.S. lawmaker.

McCain is one of the leading voices in the U.S. Congress calling for increasing U.S. aid to the rebels. His brief visit to Syria makes him one of the most senior U.S. officials to enter the country since the anti-Assad rebellion evolved into a civil war after peaceful protests in March 2011.

The Obama administration has provided non-lethal equipment and humanitarian supplies to the rebels. But it has been reluctant to intervene further, fearing U.S.-supplied weapons could end up in the hands of anti-American Islamist rebels.

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by: MUSTAFA from: INDIA
May 30, 2013 2:52 AM
This is good business of WEST to create problem and then sale weapons at 1000% profit margin. Also make so many unwanted commitment with buyer as to make them slave (Period no body knows). I think no body is willing to solve Syria problem OR rather every body want to create so much problem so West can obtain their object without any pain on their part but unlimited tears and pain on the part of syrian peoples.


by: Shadhin from: VA
May 28, 2013 3:04 PM
This is turning out to be a war between the west,Israel,Corrupt Saudi and Syria not for the people of Syria. Anyone thought what the people of Syria actually wants? I bet they do not want this kind of violence that was unleashed on them by the West in the name of Democracy.

In Response

by: Casey Jordan from: Amman,
May 28, 2013 5:07 PM
It's amazing how every time there is a war,it was started by the west!! The Syria problem was between the Syrian people not all of them, and there own Government. This also applies to Tunisia, Egypt,Libya, and Yeman. The only war you can blame on the west is Iraqi, this was Bush and Bair war.There are many Countries such as Afganistan and Pakistan while the world is round they will always be wars. The west have no interest in there corrupt and ungovernable Countries.


by: Anonymous
May 28, 2013 12:25 PM
we must absolutely send bazookas and other artillery immediately to Syria.the weapons must be in place to welcome the Russian missile systems. The Syrians need to take out these missile systems the moment they arrive.also the bazookas would help taking out tanks and finishing off bashar.


by: Gerry Chessman
May 28, 2013 12:03 PM
It is clear that Russia has a hidden agenda by supplying these missiles and the International Community need to take a stand collectively on this. Holding back and doing nothing is more dangerous whilst Russia arranges the "chess board of conflict"
as they see fit.


by: Jordan Casey from: Amman
May 28, 2013 11:46 AM
Whilst the situation is extremely complicated and if the situation is not managed properly other countries such as Isreal, Turkey, Jordan... could be dragged into the conflict. Whilst I do not believe there is any easy solution, the lack of leadership shown by President Obama is very striking. My impression is he just hopes the problem will go away, which is what we call "burying your head in the sand"!

His position is unenviable. He must now take a stand and show some real leadership which is what the democratic countries expect from the United States. Otherwise, I can only see this matter getting much, much worse.


by: dingo from: us
May 28, 2013 8:21 AM
When will the US politicians ever learn?


by: Joe from: Canada
May 28, 2013 8:20 AM
The bit I find most amusing is the assurance by the alleged rebel leader that no weapons would get into the wrong hands...scout's honour, cross my heart.


by: Godwin from: Nigeria
May 28, 2013 5:23 AM
Hmn..! At long last. Western arms for rebels in Syria! The fear of Iran and Hezbollah is making the West commit this sacrilege. You stop Iran and its arrow-head terrorist - Hezbollah, what about its other numerous, hydra-headed extremist and fundamentalist groups? Ahmadinejad visited Niger and Nigeria has been overwhelmed with terror in its northeastern border with Niger. Is Hezbollah the arm he has used to achieve it? From Tehran Iran has controlled al shabbab, boko haram, al qaida, hakanni network, hamas, the Tuareg fighters, just to name a few.

All its operation has not been hezbollah, so stopping Assad and hezbollah and introducing far worse extremist groups into Golan Heights and around Israel is to worsen the situation in the ME in general and for Israel in particular. The EU and US should reconsider their stand to supply arms to the rebels and stick with the political solution proposed by Russia, with or without the inclusion of Iran and Saudi Arabia.


by: Erik from: Poland
May 28, 2013 5:01 AM
And, Senator McCain should be prosecuted for violating the Logan Act.

In Response

by: Stephen Real from: Columbia USA
May 28, 2013 8:26 AM
Poland defending Moscow? My old lady from Poland would have you in chains for that malarkey. No doubt about it.


by: Erik from: Poland
May 28, 2013 4:59 AM
This is a big mistake. The West will be their next target.

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