Syrian rebels to get antiaircraft missiles from Saudis - report
15 February 2014, 11:17
Saudi Arabia, frustrated by the deadlock in the second round of Geneva 2 talks, has reportedly offered to supply the rebels with anti-aircraft missiles. Meanwhile Russia has accused the US of once again hijacking peace talks and pushing for regime change.
According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, Russian-made antitank guided missiles and Chinese man-portable air-defense systems are up for grabs, already waiting in warehouses in Jordan and Turkey.
An Arab diplomat and several opposition figures have told WSJ that these supplies are likely to tip the battlefield scales as the rebels will become capable of taking on the government's air power and destroying heavy armoured vehicles. The new weapons are expected to reach southern Syria from Jordan while the opposition in the north will get arms from Turkey, a Western diplomat said.
According to the WSJ report, rebel commanders struck a deal on the new armaments shipment during a meeting with US and Saudi intelligence agents in Jordan on January 30. The rebels allegedly claimed during the meeting that their new military gains would help force official Damascus to consider President Assad's ousting and bring forward a political solution to the conflict.
The Wall Street Journal also reports that its rebel sources claimed the US government is paying their salaries to fight the Assad forces. The Southern Front brigades allegedly received $3 million in cash salaries during the two meetings in Jordan, one on January 30th in Jordan and the other late last year.
Meanwhile, congressional aides told the WSJ about scheduled meetings with Syrian opposition leaders next week. The Syrian delegation will allegedly seek extra armaments in order to battle al-Qaeda and al-Nusra elements.
As the second round of Geneva 2 talks has so far failed to produce results, the Russian Foreign Minister has criticized the American stance at the negotiations accusing the US of hijacking the talks for the purpose of 'regime change' in Syria.
'The only thing they want to talk about is the establishment of a transitional governing body,' Sergey Lavrov said Friday after meeting with the German Foreign Minister in Moscow. 'Only after that are they ready to discuss the urgent and most pressing problems, like terrorism'. Lavrov said he was worried that the systematic attempts to disrupt the political settlement in Syria may force the Syrian government to slam the door.
Lavrov recalled that talks were kick started to implement the original Geneva communiqué, a position that Russia and Syria solemnly defend. The June 2012 document stipulates the creation of a transitional political body, holding of free and fair elections, the start of a national dialogue, a review of the constitution and legal system. Nowhere does it mention a removal of President Assad.
'Now they are saying that to keep talking is senseless, because the government of Syria doesn't want to agree about the makeup of a transitional governing body', Lavrov said.
The Syrian government's position remains that stopping terrorism and bloodshed should be the priority at the negotiations that started last month. The second round of the talks between government and opposition representatives began on Monday but no progress has yet been made. The opposition, backed by the US and its allies, insists on forming a transitional authority with 'full executive powers,' thus ousting Assad.
After five days of negotiations the opposition has accused the government's team of 'belligerence',while the government delegation said that the opposition has an 'unrealistic agenda.'
'I deeply regret to say that this round did not achieve any progress,' Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said. 'We came to the Geneva conference to implement Syria's declared position to reach a political solution. ... Unfortunately the other side came with an unrealistic agenda.'
The UN's Lakhdar Brahimi, curator of the talks, is due to meet the sides on Saturday, the final day for round two of the negotiations, but it remains unclear if he can offer any prospect of drawing the warring parties closer together.
Voice of Russia, Wall Street Journal, RT
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