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US Congress stance on arms supplies to Syria not to affect Asad’s opponents

July 10, 2013, 20:32 UTC+3

Lavrov warned earlier that increased arms supplies to the Syrian opposition are a mistake that would affect all sides

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MOSCOW, July 10 (Itar-Tass) - American congressmen’s apprehensions about arms supplies to Syrian rebels will not affect the position of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s opponents, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

The U.S. House and Senate Select Committees on Intelligence have suspended the consideration of plans for military assistance to Syrian rebels for fear that the arms may fall into the hands of radical Islamists.

“I do not think that this [decision] will affect the situation and the position assumed by the opponents of the [Bashar al-Assad] regime. They are getting enough arms, including the most advanced ones,” Lavrov said after talks with his Belarusian counterpart Vladimir Makei on Wednesday, July 10.

He stressed that the rebels are “actively using these arms” and they “say that they will go to the Geneva conference only after they have taken a part of Syrian territory.”

“If we are to follow this logic, we will never convene such a conference. Our Western partners assumed the obligation to get the opposition’s consent to come to the Geneva conference without preconditions,” Lavrov said.

Lavrov warned earlier that increased arms supplies to the Syrian opposition are a mistake that would affect all sides.

“We think the policy of stepping up arms supplies to opposition groups is a mistake,” Lavrov said. “This will not bring closer peace in Syria but will only increase the suffering of the Syrian people and dangerously exacerbate the situation in the region.”

“It would be wrong to say that someone will benefit in this case and someone will lose. Everyone will lose. This is the dramatic difference between the globalised and interrelated world we are living in today and the situation in the 19th and 20th centuries,” Lavrov said.

He noted that an international conference on Syria, also known as Geneva-2, could provide “a good opportunity for bringing Syria back to normal life.”

“For this, all of its potential participants, among whom we would like to see Algeria as well, should show maximum good will and be ready to provide real assistance to the Syrians. We are confident that this is not easy but not impossible,” the minister said.

Arming the Syrian opposition, directly or indirectly, will be a violation of international law, Lavrov warned earlier.

“As for the possibility to arm the opposition, as far as I understand, international law does not allow this. Therefore the arming of the Syrian opposition will be a violation of international law,” he said.

“We can recall Libya when the U.N. Security Council imposed an embargo on arms supplies to all parties to the conflict but such supplies continued openly and Middle East countries, among others, did not hesitate to speak about that. It was a violation of international law by all means,” Lavrov said.

He called for compliance with U.N. Security Council Resolution 2017 aimed at fighting the proliferation of Libyan weapons.

“Terrorist threats in the region are linked to the situation in Libya and around it, primarily uncontrolled proliferations of arms,” Lavrov said.

As an example, he cited the attack on the In Amenas gas plant in Algeria in January 2013.

“We continue to insist on the need for full and scrupulous compliance with U.N. Security Council Resolution 2017, adopted at Russia’s initiative and aimed at fighting the proliferation of Libyan weapons that are used today for destabilisation in Algeria, Mali, Syria and other countries,” the minister said.

Attempts to saturate the Syrian opposition with arms are extremely dangerous and are contrary to the settlement efforts in the country, Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said.

“Russia is concerned about the situation, especially about statements from Rome that the United States and some of its Western partners are planning to encourage opposition groups in Syria. This is not what is needed now,” he said.

“We hope that the U.S. will consistently adhere to the Geneva Communique, which remains the ‘Bible’ for Syrian settlement at this point,” the diplomat said.

“We think there is no alternative to this and attempts to saturate the opposition with arms are extremely dangerous and are contrary to the political settlement in Syria,” Lukashevich said.

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