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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Lavrov Defends Russian Arms Supplies to Syria

RIA Novosti

15:21 04/02/2012

MUNICH, February 4 (RIA Novosti) - Russia’s arms supplies to Syria will not affect the balance of power in the Middle East, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday.

“We’ve explained the facts: no matter what we supply to other countries in the region, this can in no way affect the balance of power in the region,” Lavrov said at the 38th Munich Security Conference.

He said that Russia’s arms sales to Syria had not changed the balance of power before the Arab Spring and did not affect the current situation.

“We don't supply firearms and what we supply is not used in the conflict,” Lavrov added.

Syria, the largest importer of Russian weapons in the Middle East, signed contracts for the supply of 24 MiG-29M/M2 fighter jets and eight Buk-M2E air-defense systems. A contract for the supply of Bastion anti-ship missile systems armed with SS-N-26 Yakhont supersonic cruise missiles is currently under implementation.

Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said on Thursday that Moscow will continue selling weapons to Damascus observing both international law and bilateral obligations, while some western countries are pushing for an embargo on Russian arms supplies to Syria.

According to Lavrov, “we do not accept demands that we should stop something, which is not prohibited by the international law.”

At least 5,400 people have been killed in the Syrian government's 11-month crackdown on protesters, according to the UN. Syrian authorities blame the violence on armed gangs affiliated with al-Qaeda and say more than 2,000 soldiers and police have been killed.

The West has been trying to persuade Moscow to support a resolution effectively authorizing a military operation but Russia has repeatedly insisted that the Western drive for a stronger crackdown on Syria is preparation for a “Libyan scenario.”

Russia, one of President Bashar al-Assad’s firm supporters during the uprising against his regime, indicated earlier this week that it would veto the draft resolution calling on Assad to step down. Moscow has proposed its own draft, which the West criticized as being too soft.

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