U.S. Says Reported Russian Jet Sale to Syria Causes Concern

Russia signed an agreement to deliver 36 Yak-130 jet trainer aircraft to Syria in a deal valued at $550 million, Kommersant reported, citing an unidentified person close to weapons exporter Rosoboronexport.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Jan. 18 that trade between Russia and Syria is limited to goods that aren’t banned under international law, the Moscow-based newspaper said.

“If it’s accurate, it would be quite concerning,” State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland said in Washington today when asked about the reported agreement. The State Department’s assistant secretary for Near Eastern Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, is in Moscow today for meetings that will focus first and foremost on Syria, Nuland said. Feltman will convey “our interest in being able to move forward in the UN Security Council,” she said.

The jet trainer sale follows reports that a ship from Moscow delivered ammunition to Syria earlier this month. “Any country that is still trading in weapons and armaments with Syria really ought to think twice because they’re on the wrong side of history,” Nuland said.

“We still have violence perpetrated by the regime,” Nuland said, commenting on an Arab League report on Syria yesterday that called the situation there a state of severe oppression.

U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague said it was time for the UN Security Council to move forward with sanctions against Syria. Speaking in Brussels today, Hague called such action “long overdue.”

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