First Published: 2012-06-18

 

Russia-US talks on Assad begin with deployment of Russian warships to Syria

 

Talks at Group of 20 summit in Mexico will test whether two leaders can forge working relationship, find common ground on Syria, other festering disputes.

 

Middle East Online

Obama-Putin: Mistrust prevails

MOSCOW – Russia is preparing to send two warships to the Syrian port of Tartus, where Moscow operates a strategic naval base, to ensure the safety of its nationals, the Interfax news agency reported Monday.

The report comes as Russian President Vladimir Putin was set to meet his US counterpart Barack Obama on the sidelines of the G20 summit in the Mexican resort of Los Cabos later Monday amid tensions over Syria clouding bilateral ties.

"Two major amphibious ships -- The Nikolai Filchenkov and The Tsezar Kunikov -- are preparing to be dispatched to Tartus outside of their schedule," the Russian news agency quoted an unidentified officer from the Russian naval headquarters as saying.

The two ships will carry a "large" group of marines, Interfax added. There was no official confirmation of the report from the navy or the defence ministry.

The Tsezar Kunikov can carry 150 landing troops and various armaments including tanks, while The Nikolai Filchenkov can carry up to 1,500 tonnes of cargo and equipment, the report said.

Interfax said that the ships could be used to evacuate Russian nationals.

"The crews of The Nikolai Filchenkov and The Tsezar Kunikov and SB-15 rescue tug together with marines on board are able to ensure security of Russian nationals and evacuate part of the property of the logistical support base if need be," Interfax quoted a source as saying.

The protracted conflict between the ruling regime and the opposition in Syria shows no signs of easing.

The opposition has demanded the deployment of armed peacekeepers after UN observers halted their work because of bloodshed.

Russia and its ally China have previously blocked earlier attempts at the UN Security Council to condemn Damascus and have shielded Assad's regime from further pressure amid accusations that Moscow has been sending weapons to Damascus.

United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has accused Russia of fuelling the violence by sending attack helicopters to Syria, which she said were "on the way" and would "escalate the conflict quite dramatically."

Russia angrily retorted that it was not making any new deliveries and had only carried out repairs of helicopters sent there many years ago.

Syria, one of the few countries to back Russia in its war with Georgia in 2008, is Moscow's close ally from the Soviet-era and a major purchaser of its arms.

Putin's predecessor at the Kremlin, Dmitry Medvedev, travelled to Damascus in 2010 in the first ever visit to the country by a Russian or Soviet head of state.

During talks with Assad he promised Russian assistance to Syria in reconstructing its oil and gas infrastructure and even in building a nuclear power station.

Over the past months the Kremlin has distanced itself from Assad but is sticking to its hard line, ruling out foreign intervention and insisting Assad's fate should be decided by Syrians themselves.

 

Erdogan asks Americans: Who’s your partner, Turkey or Kurds?

Algeria parliament adopts Bouteflika’s constitutional reforms

Turkey promises to let in Syria refugees 'if necessary'

UAE ready to send ground troops to Syria

Iran carmaker reveals 427 million euros in Peugeot perks

Hamas armed branch executes one of its own members

Syria army advances towards rebel town of Tal Rifaat

Netherlands probes civilian casualties in Iraq air strikes

Tunisia completes construction of Libya border fence

Algeria parliament to vote on constitutional reforms

Egypt returns body of Italian student Giulio Regeni

Iran reverses mass ban on candidates for parliamentary polls

Thousands of Syria refugees brave bad weather at border with Turkey

New photos reveal serious abuse of Iraq prisoners in US facilities

EU reminds Turkey: Keep your border open to Syria refugees

Somalia recaptures key port of Merka from Shebab

Iran warns Saudi Arabia over possible ground action in Syria

Palestinian journalist to keep up hunger strike

Iraq’s Sistani to end weekly political sermons

Shebab fighters recapture key port in Somalia

Syria regime forces close in on Daraa

Israeli leaders slam Arab MPs, refuse to return Palestinian corpses

IS jihadists rise in Libya, drop in Iraq and Syria

World powers pledge $10 billion to help war-hit Syrians

Morocco king inaugurates first solar power plant

Saudi ready to send ground troops to Syria

Israel charges cop for exposing woman's ID

Russia accuses Turkey of preparing to invade Syria

Syria talks were an inevitable failure

Saudi says Iranian pilgrims still welcome

Italy demands truth from Egypt over slain student

Fear stalks Libya's Sirte

US adds $890 million to Syria humanitarian aid effort

Tunisia lifts nationwide curfew

Two Israelis jailed for burning Palestinian teen alive

Sweden expects 100,000 asylum seekers in 2016

Turkey refuses access to Russian flight as Aleppo bombardment continues

40,000 Syrians flee Assad regime's Aleppo offensive

US implicitly blames Russia for collapse of Syria peace talks

Rome summons Egypt’s ambassador over student’s death

Israeli forces lock down West Bank town

Two Algerians 'linked to IS' arrested in Germany

Assad regime accused of undermining Syria peace talks

Top Qaeda chief killed in Yemen drone attack

EU agrees on details of Turkey refugee deal as Italy drops objections