Saturday, June 23, 2012

Russia To Send Warships to Syria – Report

Russia is to send two warships to Syria to protect its naval base at Tartus, said Interfax news agency, citing an unnamed Russian navy source. The Nikolai Filchenkov and Caesar Kunikov landing ships will carry a large group of marines, said the report, which comes at a time of increased tension and violence in Syria.
The country was been expelled from the Arab League after the deaths of thousands of protesters against President Bashar al-Assad. In Cyprus, President Demetris Christofias’ former close relations with Syrian President Assad have become an embarassment and a dilemma to the government, torn between its close relations to Russia – the Syrian government’s ally – and its EU membership.
The EU is outraged at the deaths of civilians in the country and is in the process of tightening sanctions on Assad. With the EU Presidency coming up, Cyprus may have to choose sides once and for all. So far, it has not joined the voices in favour of replacing Assad, and has contented itself with simply condemning the recent massacre in El-Houleh. Many other nations, including the UK, US, Canada and France, have closed their embassies in Syria and expelled Syrian representatives completely.
Cyprus has paid dearly so far for the president’s policy of supporting Russia and Assad. Last summer, in a tragedy directly linked with Syria, high explosives confiscated en route to to the country from Iran detonated at a naval base, killing 13. The president has been blamed for failing to destroy the munitions, which he promised to return to Assad after apologising for confiscating them.
In a later incident, Cyprus was harshly criticised by MEPs for letting The Chariot ship slip through its fingers. The ship was loaded with munitions but was released by Cypriot authorities and delivered its cargo to Syria after leaving Cyprus waters.
The latest development of Russia sending ships to Tartus has not been confirmed by the Russian defence ministry.

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