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Sat Mar 2, 2013 7:7AM
Russia's Permanent Representative to the UN Vitaly Churkin

Russia's Permanent Representative to the UN Vitaly Churkin

Russia’s envoy to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin has accused the United States of hindering peace in the crisis-hit Syria by encouraging other countries to supply weapons to militants there. In a Friday interview with the English-language Russia Today channel, Churkin said that Washington prefers not to supply the Syrian opposition with weapons directly, as it knows there are terrorist groups among them. “But at the same time they give a wink and a nod to those who provide direct military aid to rebel armed groups. All this is very unfortunate, because it takes attention away from the need to enter a political dialogue.” Churkin reiterated Russia’s support for dialogue between the government and the opposition groups in Syria as the only way to peace in the Arab country. The Syrian government is ready for such talks, and the opposition should start them without any preconditions and clearly say what it wants from the government, he added. Russia has always tried to persuade the UN Security Council that this would be the best resolution to the Syrian unrest, the Russian diplomat said. Churkin’s remarks came a day after the so-called "Friends of Syria" group decided to increase political and material support for the foreign-backed militants operating in Syria after a meeting in the Italian capital. US Secretary of State John Kerry promised an additional USD 60 million in aid to the Syrian opposition. Kerry also said Washington would provide direct support to militant forces in the form of medical and food supplies. The US secretary of state said the decision was aimed at increasing the pressure on Syrian President Assad to step down. Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Alexander Lukashevich condemned the decision by Western countries to support the foreign-backed militants in Syria. Lukashevich said that moves announced in Rome on Thursday "in spirit and in letter directly encourage extremists to seize power by force, despite the inevitable sufferings of ordinary Syrians that entails." After the meeting, the European Union also announced changes to its arms embargo on Syria, allowing EU states to provide armored vehicles and technical aid to the militants fighting against the Syrian government. Syria has been experiencing unrest since March 2011. Many people, including large numbers of Army and security personnel, have been killed in the violence. The Syrian government has said that the chaos is being orchestrated from outside the country, and that a very large number of the militants operating in the country are foreign nationals. Several international human rights organizations have accused foreign-sponsored militants of committing war crimes. YH/HN
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