Clinton worried Russia may send Syria helicopters (JERUSALEM POST) By HILARY LEILA KRIEGER, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT 06/13/12)
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WASHINGTON – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton slammed Russia on
Tuesday for selling arms and military equipment to Syria, warning
that new reports of helicopter transfers would seriously heighten
“We are concerned about the latest information we have that there are
attack helicopters on the way from Russia to Syria, which will
escalate the conflict quite dramatically,” Clinton said while at an
event with President Shimon Peres at the Brookings Institution’s
Saban Center for Middle East Policy.
The US, she said, has “confronted” Russia about stopping their
continued arms shipments and dismissed as “patently untrue” the
Russian argument that their arms provisions are unrelated to the
force the government is using against its own citizens.
Russia’s military dealings with Syria have been a major cause of
concern for Israel, while the country has come under growing pressure
from other international actors for protecting Syrian President
Bashar Assad from more aggressive efforts to remove him from power
even as his forces are accused of butchering civilians.
Clinton’s words highlight the continuing breach between the world
powers, though she did reiterate American support for the cease-fire
plan worked out by former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, which
includes a key role for Russia. So far Assad has not implemented the
Clinton said she consulted with Annan last week on his plan.
“The red line for us was the inclusion of Iran,” she noted.
“We thought that would be a grave error since we know that Iran is
not only supporting the Assad regime but actively mentoring, leading,
encouraging not merely the regular army, but the militias that are
springing up and engaging in sectarian conflict.”
There are signs that some Arab countries are also not comfortable
with the concept of including the Iranians in the contact group.
“It’s a Syria situation. It’s an Arab League situation. So the
presence of Iran will create a lot of problems, because you’re in one
way saying that Iran holds a key in Syria, and that is not
acceptable,” said one Arab official in Washington, who was not at the
At the same time, he indicated that the Annan program – which expires
in mid-July if UN members choose not to renew it – must have a
deadline for success.
“It has to have a timeline. It can’t be open-ended,” the official
said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Peres, too, said the Arab countries should be the main actors in
resolving the situation in Syria and argued for stronger activism by
the Arab League, which has called for action but has expressed
concerns about foreign intervention.
“Let the Arabs do it. They are ready, let them take responsibility,”
he said. “Let us not accuse anybody that we are intervening – let us
support them in any way we can.”
In a direct message to the Arab League, Peres told them: “Do it
yourself and the UN will support you.”
He added that while many in Syria and the region were worried about
what the alternatives were should Assad fall, keeping the strongman
in power was not an option.
“Assad stopped being an alternative,” declared Peres.
Peres also said that the upheavals in the Arab world affecting so
many countries in the region had lessons for Palestinian leaders –
including the message that it might not be in their interest to wait
for bold action, given an empowered population that has a growing
awareness of its own power.
That awareness combined with Israel’s newly expanded coalition meant
that “now it is the time to make peace with the Palestinians,”
according to the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who is in Washington to
receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Peres described Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as “a
As part of Peres’s tour of Washington ahead of Wednesday’s Medal of
Freedom ceremony at the White House, the president was received with
an honor guard at the Pentagon soon after his arrival Monday.
Afterwards, he met with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to discuss
major regional issues including Syria, Iran and the Arab Spring.
“As a human being, as an Israeli, I want to express my deepest
gratitude,” Peres told Panetta, stating his admiration “for the only
military force whose mission is not to conquer and occupy, with a
mission of values, not an appetite for power. Your men and women lost
their lives for highest and most noble values. You didn’t keep
anything for yourself.”
Panetta went on to congratulate Peres on receiving the Medal of
Freedom, which he called “a fitting recognition of your life’s work”
to “advance peace, human dignity and freedom.”
He added, “These basic values are at the core of the US-Israel
relationship.” (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post 06/13/12)
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