Code 50578
PublishDate: Thursday, June 21, 2012 16:13

Arab League calls on Russia to stop giving Syria weapons

Russia says its weapons are defensive and cannot be used against civilians.

Russia should halt arms sales to Syria and U.N. sanctions could be needed to force President Bashar al-Assad and rebels fighting to oust him to implement a failing peace plan, a senior Arab League official was quoted as saying on Thursday. 

The UN observer mission in Syria, which suspended operations on Saturday because of the rising violence, should be replaced by peacekeepers, the League’s deputy secretary general Ahmed Ben Helli told Interfax news agency in an interview. 

“Any assistance in aiding violence should be stopped. When you deliver military equipment you are helping. 

That should be stopped,” Interfax on Thursday quoted him as saying in response to a question about Russian military
cooperation with Syria. 

Russia, one of Assad’s main suppliers of military equipment, has shielded its long-standing ally Syria from tougher UN
sanctions. It says the transfers are unrelated to the conflict inside Syria, something US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
dismissed on June 13 as “patently untrue”. 

A ship believed to be carrying the attack helicopters to Syria apparently turned back to Russia, Britain’s Foreign Secretary said on Tuesday, after its insurer withdrew coverage for the ship. 

Russia says its weapons are defensive and cannot be used against civilians. 

Ben Helli said a provision in the UN charter which allows the Security Council to authorise actions ranging from sanctions to military intervention was needed to bolster a peace plan by Kofi Annan, joint envoy of the Arab League and the United Nations. 

“As we see, neither side is stopping the fighting, therefore I think we’ll have to use Chapter 7 in order to realise the Annan plan,” Interfax quoted him as saying. 

“I think that step will be taken sooner or later if the situation continues to develop like this.” 

Ben Helli said the Arab League did not support military intervention and his comments to Interfax appeared to suggest that sanctions would apply to anti-Assad forces as well as the Syrian government. 

Russia has rebuffed Western and Arab efforts to force Assad to step aside and urged political dialogue, an approach most of the Syrian opposition rejects. (AFP)

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