8 December 2012, 18:18

NATO being 'patriotic', Russia warns of consequences

NATO being 'patriotic', Russia warns of consequences

The Syrian opposition has declared Damascus International Airport a “battle zone” as fierce fighting continues on the outskirts of the capital. Tension has been mounting on the border with Turkey where NATO is planning to deploy Patriot missiles.

Russia has warned against such a move saying that a negotiated solution of the crisis is still possible. A statement to this effect was made during a meeting of the Russian foreign minister and the US secretary of state with UN and AL representatives on Syria. The Voice of Russia’s Polina Chernitsa reports.

Reports that the Syrian authorities were about to use chemical weapons came in nearly daily throughout the past week. The reports followed a statement by White House spokesman James Carney who surmised that President Assad could resort to using chemical weapons, if cornered. British Foreign Secretary William Hague said at the end of the week that the British Foreign Office had intelligence data confirming this. Mr.Hague did not specify what the data was. Moscow has made it clear that there is nothing to support this assumption at the moment.

The Syrian authorities quickly described the reports as a bustle designed to serve as a pretext for military intervention. Oriental Studies expert Boris Dolgov says the militants might use this fuss over chemical weapons for provocations.

"The militants might get hold of such weapons, use them in small quantities and put the blame on government troops. This would serve as a good pretext for the US to intervene."

Unlike reports about chemical weapons, deployment of Patriot missiles on the Syrian-Turkish border will soon become reality. Excessive ‘patriotism’ on the part of NATO and Ankara topped the agenda of talks between Russian and Turkish leaders that took place in the past week. A curious incident occurred during a news conference between Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara after the talks. A local journalist asked the Russian leader why Moscow was against NATO’s plans to deploy the missiles. There were no guarantees, the journalist said, that President Assad would not use “nuclear weapons” against Turkey. Be it wrong translation or a slip of the tongue, the phrase speaks volumes about the current frenzy over the so-called “Syrian threat” in Turkey. Vladimir Putin was quick to reply.

"Is it a joke? Does Syria have nuclear weapons? Syria is not a nuclear power. As for the deployment of Patriot missiles, we share Turkey’s concern in connection with incidents on the border. We call for restraint because building up strength on the border will only make things worse. Russia doesn’t defend the current regime in Syria. Moscow is concerned about the future. One should think twice before making an important step like this one."

However, Ankara prefers thinking to acting, expert Sergei Demidenko says.

"Turkey will persist in following this policy. Ankara has put itself in such conditions. Victory or death. It is set on supporting militants for the purpose of overthrowing the Syrian regime. It’s a great mistake."

Meanwhile, Russia and the UN continue to insist that chances for a political settlement are still there and the Syrian crisis can still be resolved by negotiation.

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