Topic: Protests in Syria
MOSCOW, March 8 (RIA Novosti) – Russia could consider steps toward demilitarizing the conflict in Syria, but wants first some “explanations” about foreign weapons supplies to the Syrian opposition, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday.
The possibility of demilitarizing the war-torn Syria was first discussed at a meeting of UN-backed international Action Group for Syria in Geneva in 2011, Lavrov said in an interview to BBC, the transcript of which is available on Russian Foreign Ministry’s website.
But continuing arms supplies to opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad hamper the demilitarization effort, Lavrov said.
“We want some explanations: How exactly, on what exact routes the supplies which are heading towards the opposition could be checked,” Lavrov was cited as saying in English.
“If we are provided such an answer…then, maybe, we can consider some steps to demilitarize this conflict. But so far, there was nothing,” he said.
Russia is Syria’s biggest arms supplier and was often accused since the start of the conflict of providing weapons to Assad’s embattled regime. Civil strife in Syria has been going on for two years, and the death toll exceeded 70,000, according to the latest UN estimates.
Lavrov said in the interview that Russian arms supplies are limited to air defense weapons which “can’t be used in this war,” as well as a “couple of helicopters” that “would not make a difference on the ground.” He said last June that Syrian army helicopters were sent to Russia for maintenance.
The United States, as well as France and Britain, have provided non-lethal military equipment to the ragtag Syrian opposition, which was also reported by media to receive infantry weapons from Middle Eastern countries opposing Assad’s regime, including Saudi Arabia.
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The current contract portfolio of Russian arms exporters is worth about $46 billion. Annual exports total $15 billion, and this will ensure uninterrupted deliveries for the next three years, even in the worst-case scenario. The list of the main buyers of Russian weapons is unlikely to change drastically.