US, Europe Voice Concern Over Russian Arms Deals With Syria

Russia’s reported sale of fighter jets and ammunition to the Assad government in Syria drew veiled criticism Tuesday from Western states at the UN Security Council, who urged “supplier countries” to stop selling arms to the regime in Damascus.

U.S., French and British Ambassadors alluded to reports of arms sales to the Syrian government, but came short of directly naming Moscow during a Security Council debate on the Middle East.

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice told the Council her government was concerned by recent reports and would encourage all members of the international community “to join the widening effort to stop the flow of weapons to the Assad regime.”

French and British representatives also criticized the recently reported deals.

“ It is unacceptable that countries, including within the Council, continue to provide the means by which violence is committed against the Syrian people.” said French Ambassador Gerard Araud.

In December, UN Human Rights Council chief Navi Pillay urged the Security Council to refer to Syrian situation to the International Criminal Court after a Rights Council mandated investigation found the Assad regime had committed crimes against humanity in its crackdown against civilians.

The UN says over 5 000 people have been killed in Syria since anti-government protests broke out last March and several thousand more have been detained.

While UN officials say Syrian state security forces or pro-government militias are responsible for the large majority of casualties, they also note a significant increase in attacks by armed opposition groups.

“The United States continues to call on the opposition to refrain from violence while recognizing that exercising such restraint becomes more and more difficult as the regime ratchets up its repression.” Rice told the Council. “We hold the Syrian regime fully responsible for the worsening cycle of violence.”

In October, Russia used its veto at the Security Council to block a resolution condemning the Assad government.  Moscow argued the Western backed text was too one sided, that it failed to address the violence carried out against Syrian state security forces and would ultimately worsen the country’s security situation.

Russian diplomats also said they were concerned the Western backed resolution would be used to justify the type of military intervention seen in Libya.

At the time US Ambassador Susan Rice said the Libya comparison was  “ …a cheap ruse by those who would rather sell arms to the Syrian regime than stand with the Syrian people.”

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