Arab League tells Russia to cease arms supplies to Syria
Published Thursday, June 21, 2012
The Gulf-dominated Arab League called on Russia to stop providing military supplies to Syria, despite Gulf Arab states openly stating their arming of Syrian rebels.
"Any assistance to violence must be ceased because when you supply military equipment, you help kill people. This must stop," the League's deputy secretary general Ahmed Bin Hilli said in an interview with the Interfax news agency on Thursday.
He also called for the mandate of UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan to be revamped, saying that a new mechanism was needed to enforce the plan.
"To make this plan work, we need to find a new mechanism and the mandate of the special envoy must be reassessed, so we can be sure that all the sides are observing the plan," he said.
He backed Iran joining the Syria Contact Group meeting expected to be held in Geneva on June 30, while saying that Tehran's participation was still at the discussion stage.
"In my view, all the players taking part in the Syrian crisis must be part of this contact group," he was quoted as saying in answer to a question about Iran's participation.
"The main task at the moment is agreeing on the agenda of the first meeting. Then a decision will be taken on who will take part in this conference," he added.
Saudi Arabia and Qatar, both heavyweights in the Arab League, have taken a hardline approach to the Syrian crisis, openly calling for the removal of Syrian President Bashar Assad and declaring their material support for rebels and Islamist groups fighting the regime.
Gulf Arab states and Russia have repeatedly traded accusations that each has undermined Annan's peace plan. Russia has chided Gulf states for working to derail the UN mission through its continued support of rebels.
Gulf involvement in the Syrian crisis has irked certain internal opposition groups that fear Gulf states seek to turn Syria into a proxy war against regional rival Iran, and inflame sectarian tensions through their support of Islamist hardliners.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week accused Russia of supplying Syria with new attack helicopters, a charge Moscow denies.
Russia said it was only repairing helicopters it supplied Syria years ago, instead accusing the US of supplying arms to Syrian rebels.