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Russia counters US arms claim over Syria

06-14-2012 10:33 BJT Special Report: Crisis in Syria |

The United States and Russia are continuing their "war of words" over Syria.  Deeply divided since the beginning of the 15 month crisis, the two former Cold War adversaries have now become mired in accusations and counter-accusations over supplying weapons to opposing sides in the Syrian conflict.

 On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accused Russia of sending attack helicopters to Damascus, and her counterpart in Moscow, Sergei Lavrov, now says the U.S. is supplying the opposition. 

Yes, in a brief visit to Iran, Sergei Lavrov did seem to accuse the U.S. of supplying weapons to the Syrian opposition.  Moscow, however, later said that the translation was wrong, and that Lavrov words were about the U.S. supplying weapons to the region as a whole.  Whichever version is true, the rhetoric is more reminiscent of the U.S.-Russian relationship of 30 years ago, than in the 21st century.
 It was first about helicopters.   On Tuesday the U.S. accused Russia of having supplied helicopter gunships to Syria.

 That was vehemently denied by Moscow.  At a brief press conference in Tehran, Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, then seemed to say the U.S. was sending weapons to the Syrian opposition.

 Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, "They (the U.S) are providing arms and weapons to the Syrian opposition that can be used in fighting against the Damascus government."

 Though that statement was later qualified, it drew a swift and angry response from Washington.

 U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, "The United States has provided no military support to the Syrian opposition.  None!"

Of course supplying arms to Syria is not illegal, as there is no United Nations arms embargo against Damascus, and that is at the heart of the problem.  The U.S. would very much like a tough sanctions resolution here in New York against Damascus, but so far there has been division in the Security Council.  This very public diplomatic spat is evidence of that division—and bodes poorly for the future of relations between the two countries.

 Dmitri Trenin, Head of Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Moscow Centre:  “From the Russian government's view point, a US involvement in the civil war in Syria, a US-backed, a US-inspired involvement in the civil war in Syria would constitute a major breach in the world order. And that, I think, could lead to a serious alienation between Russia and the United States, between Russia and the West.”
Wherever the weapons come from it’s evident on the ground in Syria that all sides are using more and more lethal force - and the standoff between Washington and Moscow will do little to help the UN as it scrambles to monitor the unraveling situation on the ground.
Reporter: "This standoff over who is arming who also is having a profound effect on the diplomacy when it comes to Syria.  If there is to be any resolution to this crisis most diplomats here agree that it will come from Washington and Moscow whose joint influence is needed to pressure, not just the Syrian government but also the divided regional powers like Saudi Arabia and Qatar on the one side, and Iran on the other."

Editor:James |Source: CNTV

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