Russia refuses to comply with ship inspections over Syria

AFP , Saturday 28 Jul 2012

Russia says loud and clear that it will not apply any of the air and sea blockade sanctions against its Soviet-era ally after the EU agreed to stiffer penalties against Syria

In this Friday, July 27, 2012 photo, armed Syrian rebels stand beside a destroyed Syrian army armored vehicle in Homs, Syria(Photo:AP)

Russia said Saturday it would not cooperate with a new round of European Union sanctions against Syria and would not consent to inspections of ships flying the Russian flag.

"We do not plan to take any part in measures carrying out European Union decisions directed against Syria," foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich was quoted as saying in a statement.

"Among other things, we will not consider requests and give consent to the search of ships sailing under the Russian flag, nor to the use of other restrictive measures," said the statement posted on the ministry's website.

Earlier this week the EU beefed up sanctions against President Bashar Al-Assad's regime and agreed to tighten an arms embargo by inspecting vessels and planes suspected of carrying arms.

Russia on Wednesday condemned the new round of EU sanctions against Syria over the prolonged conflict with the opposition as amounting to an air and sea "blockade" of its Soviet-era ally.

Russia last month attempted to deliver a controversial shipment of three attack helicopters and an air defence system to Syria in a cargo ship under a Curacao flag before being exposed by Washington.

The Alaed cargo vessel carrying the helicopters was then forced to turn back when its British insurer ended up pulling coverage. It returned to Russia and swapped its flag for a Russian one.

A report by the Interfax news agency on Friday said that Russia planned to delay the shipment until security control was restored in Syria and had moved the helicopters into storage.

Russia argues that the Mi-25 helicopters already belonged to Syria and were only returned to Russia for upgrades under a 2008 contract signed long before the fighting began.

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