Russia cautions West on Syria intervention
'The main strike forces will be supplied not by France, Britain and Italy, but possibly by neighboring Turkey [in this instance],' the Russian official said. REUTERS photoRussian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev said a military intervention in Syria led by NATO members is possible in the near future and “the main strike forces will be neighboring Turkey.”
Iran is the main target because of its ties with Syria, he said, adding that Turkey and the United States are both working to create a no-fly zone in Syria.
“There is information that NATO members and some Arab states of the Persian Gulf, acting in line with the scenario seen in Libya, intend to turn the current interference with Syrian affairs into a direct military intervention,” said Patrushev, a former head of the main successor to the Soviet-era KGB, in an interview published on the website of the daily Kommersant yesterday.
“The main strike forces will be supplied not by France, Britain and Italy, but possibly by neighboring Turkey [in this instance],” the Russian official said, adding that the U.S. and Turkey are planning to create a no-fly zone in Syria in order to secure a base for Syrian rebels. Patrushev said Turkey, which had excellent relations with Syria not that long ago, is vying for influence in the region with Iran, Voice of Russia website reported.
Military escalation is also likely in Iran, with “real danger” of a U.S. strike, Patrushev said. The current tension over Syria was linked to the Iran issue, he said. “They want to punish Damascus not so much for the repression of the opposition, but rather for its refusal to break off relations with Tehran.”
“There is a likelihood of military escalation of the conflict, and Israel is pushing the Americans toward it,” Patrushev said. “There is a real danger of a U.S. military strike on Iran,” he said. “At present, the U.S. sees Iran as its main problem. They are trying to turn Tehran from an enemy into a supportive partner, and to achieve this, to change the current regime by whatever means,” he added.
Tehran could respond by blocking the Strait of Hormuz between Oman and Iran, through which 35 percent of the world’s seaborne traded oil passes, Patrushev said. “It cannot be ruled out that the Iranians will be able to carry out their threat to shut exports of Saudi oil through the Strait of Hormuz if faced with military actions against them.”
Selçuk Ünal, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesperson dismissed as “speculation” remarks by a senior Russian security official that Turkey would supply the main striking forces in a possible military intervention in Syria.
“I don’t want to comment on scenarios or remarks which I have not seen yet. There are many circles creating scenarios. But, our attitude on Syria is clear; we want bloodshed to be halted immediately,” he said.
Turkey wanted Syrian administration to reply to Syrian people’s legitimate demands, he said. “Issues other than this are speculations. But, we already have declared that Turkey was always ready to every sort of developments.”
Chariot arrives in Syria
A Russian ship carrying tons of arms arrived at a Syrian port yesterday morning after making an unscheduled stop in Greek Cyprus, a Turkish foreign ministry official said.
“Turkish navy has learned the ship docked at the Syrian port Tartut today,” Selçuk Ünal, Foreign Ministry spokesperson told reporters yesterday.
The cargo ship, “Chariot,” owned by St. Petersburg-based Westberg Ltd., was technically violating an EU embargo on such shipments.
The Chariot dropped anchor off southern Greek Cypriot port, Limassol Jan. 10 because of high seas, drawing the attention of Greek Cypriot officials, according to government spokesman Stefanos Stefanou. Customs officials boarded the ship to examine its cargo, but could not open and inspect the four containers because of “the confined space” they were stored in, the Greek Cypriot Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Stefanou told state radio earlier yesterday it was decided the vessel would be released after the ship agreed to change its destination and “not go to Syria,” in keeping with “all international regulations.”
The Chariot was reportedly carrying between 35 and 60 tons of munitions and explosives bound for the port of Latakia in Syria.
Additional AFP and Reuters reports were used in this story.