For Immediate Release: June 17, 2013
Washington D.C.- Today on the sidelines of the G8 Summit, President Obama met with Russian President Putin to discuss the conflict in Syria. Human Rights First notes that the U.S government has publicly criticized Russia’s support for Assad. That position is undermined when the Pentagon has just entered into another contract with Russian state arms exporter Rosoboronexport despite its acknowledgment that Rosoboronexport is the largest provider of weapons and ammunition to the Assad regime. Earlier this year, Congress passed legislation to stop these deals.
“Leadership is what is needed today from the U.S. government to bring together those who can influence the situation on the ground in Syria. For the last 18 months the U.S government has hurled strong rhetoric, admonishing Russian authorities for their support of Bashar-al-Assad, all the while forging billion dollar weapons deals with Rosoboronexport in the background,” said Human Rights First’s Sadia Hameed. “If President Obama wants to demonstrate U.S global leadership on Syria then he must be willing to act on it and end the Pentagon’s relationship with Rosoboronexport.”
For over two years the Russian government has openly supported Bashar-al Assad in his brutal crackdown of an initially peaceful democratic movement that has now spiraled into civil war and claimed close to 100,000 lives. With the prospect of the Geneva peace summit on the horizon, President Obama must convince President Putin that it is to the benefit of both countries to put aside their own political alliances and prioritize the future and safety of the Syrian people. The Obama Administration has just declared its readiness to provide light weapons and ammunition to the opposition, however thus far they have failed to explain exactly how this fits into a strategy for bringing an end to the conflict. An effective negotiation to end to Syria’s bloody conflict can only be convened if foreign governments lined up on each side are ready to work seriously for an end to the violence.
“Syria should no longer be the battle zone for a standoff between United States, Israel and Gulf states against Iran, Russia and Hezbollah,” concluded Hameed. “If lasting peace in Syria is really what President Obama strives for, then he must adopt and implement a clear strategy to bring both Syrian and foreign government stakeholders to the table, and his administration must prioritize the protection of Syrian lives above other competing policy priorities. Anything less will simply not suffice.”