For Immediate Release: May 17, 2013
Washington, DC – As Secretary of State John Kerry continues to discuss with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov toward peace negotiations in Syria, Human Rights First President and CEO Elisa Massimino urges the Secretary to make clear that Russia can be a partner in brokering peace in Syria or it can be an enabler of the Assad regime, but it cannot be both.
Massimino’s call comes just days after Human Rights First released a private letter from the Army Supply Bureau of the High Command of the Syrian Arab Republic (SAR) to the Russian arms dealer Rosoboronexport. The letter appears to show new orders for rifles, machine guns, grenade launchers, mortor rounds, ammunition and other goods the Syrian Army needs to carry out its ongoing operations against civilians. It also comes amidst news reports that Russia has sent advanced antiship cruise missiles to Syria.
“If verified, this letter contradicts Rosoboronexport’s earlier assertions that its sales to the Assad regime were for defensive purposes,” wrote Massimino in her letter to Secretary Kerry. “It also confirms that the Syrian Army is purchasing not just major systems, as previously stated, but also a multitude of the kinds of small arms that are used to target the civilian population. It appears that Assad plans on sustaining military operations and using Russia as a major supplier of military resources. … I hope you will judge Russia’s intentions by its actions on Syria, such as arms sales, and insist from Mr. Lavrov that Rosoboronexport end its relationships with the Assad regime prior to any planned peace talks.”
In her letter, Massimino also stated that the United States should end its own ties to Rosoboronexport. She notes, “As you know, the U.S. Department of Defense has an ongoing contract worth nearly $1 billion to buy helicopters and parts from Rosoboronexport for the Afghan military. The sales were banned by Congress last year for FY13 funds, but the relationship continues as DOD used FY12 funding to circumvent the ban. DOD’s relationship with Rosoboronexport is at cross purposes with U.S. national security interests in preventing mass atrocities interests in Syria and your efforts to negotiate an end to the violence.”
For more information, read Human Rights First’s recently released report The Enablers of the Syrian Conflict: How Targeting Third Parties Can Slow the Atrocities in Syria or visit it accompanying interactive website. To speak with Massimino, please contact Brenda Bowser Soder at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-370-3323.