Russia is against imposing an arms embargo on Syria, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday.
Speaking at a news conference in Moscow following his meeting with Arab ambassadors to Russia on Monday, Lavrov said lessons should be learnt from the situation in Libya, where an embargo on arms supplies was “only applied to the Libyan army.”
“Groups, including those formed from citizens who penetrated to Syria from other states, have been actively supplied with arms,” he said. “That is why proposals to introduce a ban on any arms supplies to Syria are quite unfair.”
The United States and European Union have already banned arms supplies to Damascus, and the Arab League proposed to follow suit during its meeting on Syria on Sunday. Russia is Syria’s major arms supplier, with contracts worth at least $4 billion as of 2011.
“We know how the arms embargo was applied in Libya,” Lavrov said on Tuesday. “The opposition was receiving arms, with such countries as France and Qatar publicly stating that they have supplied those arms.”
International pressure on the regime of President Bashar al-Assad has mounted in the past few weeks over his intensified crackdown on dissent.
On Sunday, the Arab League approved sanctions against Damascus in the latest bid to dissuade the Assad regime from using violence against protesters. The sanctions include cutting off transactions with the Syrian central bank and halting Arab government funding for projects in Syria, as well as travel bans and asset freezes on senior Syrian officials.
Damascus has denounced the move as a betrayal of Arab solidarity.
According to UN estimates, more than 3,500 people have been killed in Syria since mid-March, when the protests against Bashar al-Assad's regime first began.
Lavrov said on Tuesday the Yemeni example should be studied as a way to resolve the Syrian crisis.
“All states, including those who have demanded to take some action against Syria, have taken a totally different approach towards Yemen, where negotiations on a peaceful plan proposed by the Gulf Cooperation Council have lasted for months,” he said.
As a result of “patience, insistence and equal pressure applied to all participants in the process,” the plan has eventually been signed, bringing a “real chance” to stabilize the situation in the country, he said.
“An ultimatum that some states, including Arab League members, have been trying to resort to, cannot resolve the problem,” he added.
After months of uprising in Yemen, its President Ali Abdullah Saleh agreed last week to step down and transfer power to his vice president under the Gulf Cooperation Council-backed plan to resolve the country’s political crisis.