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Moscow returns fire by accusing US of arming Syria's rebel forces

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    There are fears for the plight of the people of al-Haffa which has been under siege for eight days

    Moscow and Washington were yesterday engaged in a tense war of words over the conflict in Syria, trading barbed accusations over each other's role in arming opposing sides.

    In an indication of the breakdown in international diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis, the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, hit back at accusations by the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, that his government was "patently" lying about its weapons shipments to Syria and escalating the situation by supplying attack helicopters to the regime.

    Speaking during a visit to Tehran, Mr Lavrov claimed that the US was responsible for an increase in bloodshed, accusing Washington of supplying weapons to the Syrian opposition.

    Consensus that the situation on the ground constitutes a full-blown civil war is mounting, with the new French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, yesterday joining the UN peacekeeping chief as defining it as such. Syrian state television yesterday said it had "cleansed" the embattled Latakia town of Al Haffa of "terrorist groups", with troops said to be rounding up scores of men and raiding houses.

    Analysts and diplomats say that the Free Syrian Army (FSA) has become better organised and armed in recent months, as weapons shipments begin to seep in from nations such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The US State Department has stressed that it is not providing any lethal equipment to rebels, but has reportedly been helping to co-ordinate shipments from the Gulf. Russia is the main arms supplier to Bashar al-Assad's regime, but says its contracts are in line with UN regulations.

    "We are not violating any international law in performing these contracts," said Mr Lavrov. "That contrasts with what the United States is doing, which is providing arms to the Syrian opposition which are being used against the Syrian government."

    There are fears that the polarisation of the international community – as laid bare in Ms Clinton and Mr Lavrov's comments – could escalate the violence further as foreign powers engage in a proxy battle as diplomatic resolutions remain hamstrung.

    "There's a set of international actors, Russia, Iran as well as Hezbollah who have been supplying support to the regime from the beginning and now we've now started to see some support being provided to the rebels," said Salman Shaikh, an expert on Syria at the Doha Brookings Centre.

    "The Gulf states are not going to hold back and unless something dramatic happens its going to be a long, bloody and very regretful summer."

    There has been a "shocking escalation" in unlawful killings, torture, arbitrary dentition and wanton destruction of homes by government forces and militias, Amnesty International says in a new report today based on visits to 23 towns and villages during April and May.

    There are fears for the plight of the population of the Sunni town of al-Haffa, where the FSA said they pulled out overnight yesterday to avoid the killing of more civilians. The city had been under siege for eight days and one wounded FSA fighter who had escaped said troops were making mass arrested and looting houses.

    "We aren't getting much details of what's been going on because communications have been cut since the army stormed the area," said Rafif Joejati, a spokeswoman for the Local Co-ordination Committees. "But when the regime says they've cleansed the area there are fears that the civilian population will have paid the price."
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    The Czech Republic believes the US, and is convinced that Russia is directly lending its support to the Syrian dictatorship. We condemn Russia's actions, and call on all nations to do likewise. We feel that Russia should feel repercussions for sending military equipment only days after several new massacres of civilians.
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    The MHoC calls upon both sides not to send weapons (if they have done already). Arming either side will only increase tensions.
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    Belgium believes external intervention in military form needs to be avoided if peace and order is to be restored in Syria. The first step should be to send third party investigators into the country to monitor the situation. The international community need to be made aware of who exactly are responsible for the deaths of the civilians. The goverment claim them to be the act of terrorists, but this needs to be clarified prior to any foreign involvement.

    In the meantime we encourage a caesefire between the government and opposition forces for the safety of civilians. When the parliamentary elections take place the citizens themselves can vote for their chosen party, and the presidential elections in 2014 will allow them to vote for whoever they wish to run their country.

    We support the UK's view of calling for both Russia and the US not to send weapons to Syria.
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    Australia believes both sides should, if they have, cease arming either side lest we end up with another afghanistan, vietnam, korea etc. etc.
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    Slovenia believes that Russia are spreading false rumors about our allies the USA.
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    Argentina supports the view of Australia.
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    New Zealand believes this is a tough situation. Of course, what Russia seem to be doing should be condemned and needs to be looked in to. Obviously, some may say that if the US is also arming Syrians, they are in some ways like the Russians. We believe the UN need to get back in to Syria and do something to stop the regime.

    This was posted from The Student Room's iPhone/iPad App
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    Tunisia demands Russia and China stop backing President Assad's tyranic regime, however we would suggest that it is unwise for the US to arm Syrian rebels whilst there is still disagreement between the Security Council countries over what to do.

    The TSR MUN Arab League is in the process of setting up a comitee to develop a solution to the crisis in syria.
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    Ship on way to Syria carrying Russian attack helicopters currently stopped off the UK due to insurance cover issues.

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    Given recent developments (namely the Russian attack helicopters sent to Syria being stopped off the UK coast), the Oriental Republic of Uruguay gives its support to the United States of America, and urges Russia to stop supplying military supplies to the al-Assad regime.
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    Would the UK like to comment on why this shipment hasn't been seized?
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    Iran remains fully supportive of the Syrian government, and belives President Assad has every right to defend his country from this terrorist insurrection. We also believe Russia should not be forced to act against their wishes by aggressive Western pressure.

    Indonesia calls for further diplomacy to help bring this crisis to a close, and urges Russia to be more flexible in their approach to the situation.
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    Georgia fully endorses the comments of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Russia's relationship with Syria. Syria was discussed at length during Mrs Clinton's visit to Georgia a few weeks ago. In the strongest words possible we believe Russia should cut links with the murderous al-Assad regime and support a transition to democracy. That is the wish of the Syrian people, and we support that wish.
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    Malaysia wholeheartedly acknowledges the threat that the countries parties could be exposed to, and is calling on them to remember that the tensions, along with conflict, is not the resolution.
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    Ukraine is disappointed once again at the underhanded state-building that is occurring in Syria. It is clear that the US is indeed supporting the FSA, a force of dubious providence, whilst Russia is (perhaps contractually legitimately) shoring up the if not murderous than certainly incompetent Assad regime.

    Once again, we sit back and watch the proxy war.


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Updated: June 27, 2012
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