Russia rebukes Assad for speaking out on new term

Russia rebukes Assad for speaking out on new term

MOSCOW - Agence France-Presse
Russia rebukes Assad for speaking out on new term

A handout picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) on December 10, 2013, shows two Russian aircrafts carrying 44 tons of various humanitarian aid arriving at the al-Basel Airport in the coastal city of Latakia. AFP photo

Russia Dec. 19 issued a rare criticism of its ally Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, saying statements that he wanted to run in presidential elections in 2014 risked harming the atmosphere ahead of peace talks.

“Exchanging such rhetorical statements just makes the atmosphere heavier and does not make the situation calmer,” Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov told the Interfax news agency in an interview.

Bogdanov said al-Assad and all parties in Syria should steer clear of stoking tensions ahead of peace talks planned to take place in Switzerland next month aimed at ending the conflict.

“We believe that ahead of the peace talks, there should be no statements which someone may not like and can cause emotions and a reaction in response,” he said.

It was not immediately clear to which recent statement by al-Assad he was referring, but the Syrian government has repeatedly said al-Assad would run in the 2014 polls.

Russia airlifts chemical arms equipment

Russia, meanwhile, has sent 10 planes to Syria carrying equipment to help in the multinational operation to remove and destroy the country’s chemical weapons arsenal, its ambassador Dec. 19 said.

The planes carrying the equipment touched down in the Syrian port city of Latakia, Russia’s ambassador to Syria, Azamat Kulmukhametov, told the RIA Novosti news agency.

“An air bridge has been established to deliver the technology and the equipment necessary for assisting the operation for the removal of the chemical weapons from Syria,” he said. “Today there have been 10 flights to Latakia and this is going to continue.”

Kulmukhametov did not give further details, but the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which is overseeing the removal, has said Russian armored trucks will help take Syria’s chemical weapons out of the country.