Putin: Russia does not arm civil wars
Published Friday, June 1, 2012
Russian President Vladimir Putin denied on Friday that Russia was supplying arms to the Syrian government to crush rebels, brushing off US criticism of a "reprehensible" arms shipment to Damascus.
Putin, speaking after talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, also reiterated that Moscow does not back any side in what he called an "extremely dangerous" situation in Syria and said patience was needed to achieve a political solution.
"We have a good, long-standing relationship with Syria, but we do not support any side from which the threat of a civil war may emerge," Putin told a joint news conference with Merkel.
"As for supplying weapons, Russia does not provide weapons that could be used in a civil conflict," he added.
On Thursday, Western officials confirmed a report from the Human Rights First group that a Russian cargo ship had delivered heavy weapons to the Syrian port of Tartus last weekend.
The weapons were for Syrian President Bashar Assad's security forces, which have sought to crush peaceful protesters and armed insurgents for the past 14 months.
A spokesman for Russia's UN mission said he would look into the issue.
US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice had tough words for Moscow, saying: "It's reprehensible that arms would continue to flow to a regime that is using such horrific and disproportionate force against its own people."
Moscow has previously defended its arms sales to Damascus against Western criticism, saying government forces had to protect themselves against rebels receiving arms from abroad.
Damascus says Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Libya are among countries helping the anti-Assad insurgents.