‘Russia Syria jet deal news reports concerning’
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Last Updated: Tuesday, January 24, 2012, 11:24
Washington: The US has expressed concern over reports that Syria has inked a USD 550 million contract to purchase advanced training fighter jets from Russia.

"If it is accurate, it would be quite concerning," State Department spokesperson, Victoria Nuland, told reporters when asked about reports that Russia would be supplying combat jets to Syria. A top US diplomat visiting Moscow would raise this issue with Russian authorities, Nuland said.

The deal was signed in December with Russia's Rosoboronexport state defence corporation, a news report cited a source close to the agency as saying. The production of the jets would begin once the advance payment was made.

"We, as you know, had Deputy Secretary (William) Burns in Moscow about a week ago. Among the issues he talked about was Syria. We have today NEA (Near Eastern Affairs) Assistant Secretary Jeff Feltman in Moscow. I think it may be his first visit to Moscow," she said.

Issue number one on his agenda there is Syria and our interest in being able to move forward in the UN Security Council and talking about how the situation looks after the Arab League report over the weekend.

"So I'm sure that Jeff will be raising these concerns as well," Nuland said.

"We've raised it a number of times. With regard to this latest incident, we'll obviously be inquiring about it.I don't think we've seen anything but press reports at this moment," she said.

"As we've been saying for months, our firm belief is that any country that is still trading in weapons and armaments with Syria really needs to think twice, because they are on the wrong side of history and those weapons can be used against innocents, and have been," Nuland said.

Every time we talk to the Russians about Syria, we make the point about how dangerous we think it is to be continuing to trade in weapons, and encouraging them to do what they can to stop such trade, she said.

"So with regard to these new reports, they came up today, we've sent them on for Ambassador Feltman to raise with the Russians, but I don't have anything further to report.

So obviously, we're going to talk about that situation," Nuland said when asked about the news reports.

"We also need to talk about how we move forward in the main organisation where Russia has responsibilities, where the United States has responsibilities, where all the permanent members of the Security Council have responsibilities for peace and security.

We've felt for some time that the UN has not done enough, so that'll be a key issue on the agenda," Nuland said.


First Published: Tuesday, January 24, 2012, 11:24

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