Published Thursday, March 14, 2013
The Tartus base is Russia’s only remaining foreign military base and is seen as a major strategic asset for Moscow, which is widely believed to be arming Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s beleaguered government.
Two Russian warships had previously docked at the Syrian naval base last November ostensibly to load fuel and water and make minor repairs according to Russian authorities.
Meanwhile, Russia’s Foreign Ministry warned the Arab League on Thursday that its recent decision to give Syria’s seat to the opposition National Council would “legalize arms supplies to militants and terrorists.”
The Arab League suspended Syria’s membership in November 2011, accusing President Bashar al-Assad of using lethal force against protesters. The Arab League offered Syria’s vacant seat to the Syrian National Coalition at a meeting in the Egyptian capital Cairo on March 6.
“Considering that the most battle-worthy force standing up to Syria’s regular army is admittedly Jabhat al-Nusra, a terrorist group, it is easy to see who will become the ‘end user’ of that assistance,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said.
He claimed there was still a chance for talks between the Syrian government and the various opposition groups.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday Russia is taking no sides in the Syrian conflict and hopes the Syrian opposition will soon form a team to negotiate with government representatives. Moscow has previously said it is ready to provide a venue for negotiations.