Putin warns against arming Syrian rebels

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Russian President Vladimir Putin waits for the arrival of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, unseen, at the Bocharov Ruchei residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia on 14 May 2013. (Photo: AP / RIA-Novosti - Alexei Druzhinin, Presidential Press Service)

Published Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday it was important to avoid actions that might aggravate Syria's civil war, a veiled warning against foreign military intervention or arming anti-government forces.

Russia and the United States are trying to bring the warring sides together at an international conference in Jordan next week to end the bloodshed in Syria, but Moscow is concerned that Washington or other countries might arm the rebels.

"In this crucial period it is extremely important to avoid any actions that could aggravate the situation," Putin said after talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. He gave no further details.

Jordan's foreign ministry said on Tuesday Amman will host a meeting of the so-called "Friends of Syria" group next week to discuss latest developments in Syria's civil war.

"The foreign ministers of Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, the United States, Britain, France, Turkey, Germany and Italy will hold a meeting in Amman in mid-next week," ministry spokeswoman Sabah Rafei told AFP.

"This meeting will follow up on previous meetings in Istanbul and Abu Dhabi to discuss the unfortunate events in Syria and coordinate positions in line with the recent US-Russian agreement to revive the political path to tackle the crisis."

A diplomatic source said a meeting of top officials from the United States, France and Britain will take place on Thursday, with Russia and China joining the talks a day later. It is still unknown where these talks will be held.

At a meeting late Monday in Abu Dhabi, the foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, as well as that of Turkey – all of whom back the Syrian opposition – insisted that President Bashar al-Assad should have no role in the future of Syria.

On Monday the Syrian government said it wanted more details before deciding whether to take part in the conference, staking out a similar position to the main opposition group.

Syria's Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi told Lebanon's Al-Manar TV, excerpts of which were published Tuesday by the Syrian state news agency, the government's participation in the proposed talks "depends on knowing the details and developments."

But he stressed that Damascus will not take part in any political dialogue that infringes on the country's sovereignty, and stressed that the president, constitution and the form of political system are among the sovereign matters and will be only decided by the "Syrian people and ballot boxes."

"Syria's political decision is clear, which is to go toward a political solution and support positive international efforts while fighting terrorism at the same time," he said.

(AFP, Reuters, AP)


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