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Jan. 18 (Bloomberg) -- Russia rejected U.S. criticism over a Russian arms shipment to Syria, saying it’s not acting illegally by supplying weapons to the Middle Eastern country.
“We don’t consider it necessary to explain or justify ourselves because we aren’t breaking any international agreements or UN Security Council resolutions,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters in Moscow today.
Russia accuses western countries of seeking to overthrow Assad and has blocked sanctions against Syria at the Security Council. The U.S. and European Union have both imposed an arms embargo against Syria, where more than 5,000 people have died in a crackdown on unrest that began in March, according to the United Nations.
The U.S. has “very grave concern” about arms reaching Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, said yesterday after news reports that a Russian shipment of ammunition arrived in Syria.
Chariot, a Russian-owned ship carrying bullets, was detained by Cypriot authorities last week and allowed to proceed after agreeing to change its destination to Turkey. The ship stopped transmitting its automatic-recognition signal and went to the Syrian port of Tartus instead, the Cypriot national broadcaster CyBC reported, without saying where it got the information.
“Unfortunately there is not an arms embargo against Syria, which we certainly think is overdue, in part because as you well know some members of the council including Russia have indicated opposition to any form of sanctions,” Rice said in New York yesterday.
Russia has weapons contracts with Syria of at least $3 billion, according to the Moscow-based Center for the Analysis of Strategies and Technologies. The orders include Yakhont anti- ship cruise missiles, MiG-29 fighter jets and Pantsir short- range air-defense systems. The port of Tartus is the only Russian base outside the former Soviet republics.
Lavrov said Russia only trades with Syria what is legal under international law. “Unilateral sanctions imposed by the U.S. and EU and some other countries can’t be regarded as legitimate as far as Russia’s actions are concerned,” he said.
--With assistance from Flavia Krause-Jackson in United Nations. Editors: Paul Abelsky, Andrew Langley
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