ISSN 2330-717X

Another Russian Game Of Words – OpEd

By

By Abudullah Al Alami

Saudi Foreign Ministry statement was loud and clear; Russia, stop interfering! And do not make false accusation that Saudi Arabia was supporting terrorism in Syria.

That was not all, the Saudi statement reminded Moscow to take moral, legal and criminal responsibility for backing the crimes of President Bashar Assad’s regime.

The statement emphasized the fact that Saudi Arabia “has been dealing with the Syrian crisis on the basis of international legitimacy and through the UN Security Council but its efforts were blocked by the veto, giving Syria the license to continue its crimes against unarmed civilians, violating human rights and international charters.”

Maybe we need to remind Moscow that when UN Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos, visited the neighborhood of Baba Amro in Homs last week, he said that the neighborhood has been completely destroyed and most of its residents have fled.

Has Moscow not heard that the Syrian regime intensified its security grip on the capital Damascus and raided the neighborhoods of Qabun, Maidan and Barzeh?

It was ironic that the first country to establish full diplomatic relations with Hijaz (the name of the Saudi Arabia until 1932) was the Soviet Union. However, relations cooled later on, with Saudi Arabia closing their legation in Moscow in 1938 and refusing to re-establish relations. Meanwhile, the former Soviet Union was backing regimes hostile to Saudi Arabia in South Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Ethiopia.

Diplomatic relations were only re-established after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the establishment of the Russian Federation.

Tensions between Saudi Arabia and Russia peaked after Russia’s reoccupation of Chechnya in late 1999.

Since 2003 Saudi-Russian relations have witnessed some improvement. King Abdullah’s (then Crown Prince) visit to Moscow in September 2003 was a clear attempt to start a new page in Saudi-Russian relations. Actually what the Russians were interested in was the Saudi energy sector. A Saudi-Russian oil and gas accord was signed at the September 2003 summit and in 2004 Lukoil signed a contract for exploration and development of natural gas in Saudi Arabia.

When President Putin arrived in Saudi Arabia in February 2007 he made sure he had a large entourage of business executives accompanying him to demonstrate Russia’s interest in doing business with Saudi Arabia. Actually, the two governments signed agreements to promote investments, expand air traffic, prevent double taxation and promote cultural exchanges. In fact, Russia was particularly interested in selling us weapons and nuclear technology as Putin indicated during the talks.

In January 2008, Russian Railways (RZD) obtained an $800 million contract to build a 520 km rail line inside the Kingdom, but Riyadh canceled it four months later. I would not go into further details at this time.

In June 2008, Saudi-Russian bilateral trade and WTO negotiations were concluded, and in July 2008 the two countries signed the Saudi-Russian military-technical cooperation agreement which gave rise to renewed Russian hopes for more lucrative contracts.

We remain unhappy about Moscow’s continued involvement in the Iranian atomic energy program and its arms sales to Tehran and Syria. Moscow needs to be reminded that terrorist attacks on Syrian women and children do not materialize out of thin air; shipments of hard-to-track Russian small weapons have risen since the uprising against Assad started. In fact, the Russians have trained the Syrian regime specific terrorist attackers including the Syrian Special Forces to conduct paratroop operations to break the Syrian people.

Moscow continued to supply the Syrian regime with new deadly weapons including the P-800 Yakhont cruise missile which arrived during the last few weeks. Actually, Syria received at least two Bastion systems, or more than 60 supersonic land-attack missiles in addition to the Iskander-E long-range surface-to-surface rocket from Russia.

Moscow’s arms sales to Syria shows no sign of bowing to pressure and has even increased deliveries of arms to help keep President Bashar Assad in power.

Moscow accuses the West of being one-sided and says the arms it sells have not been used by Assad loyalists to kill more than 7,000 people. If this is the case, why then at least four cargo ships left the Black Sea port of Oktyabrsk since December contracted by Russian arms exporter Rosoboronexport for arms shipments — heading for the Syrian port of Tartous? These same ammunition and sniper rifles of the kind are still being used increasingly by Syrian government forces against civilian protesters. We don’t need Russia to teach us lessons about morality; nobody believes what the Russians are saying anymore.

Tweet: “A false-statement requires deceit and distortion for someone to buy it, but a truthful-statement sells itself.” — William Bailey

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Arab News

Arab News

Arab News is Saudi Arabia's first English-language newspaper. It was founded in 1975 by Hisham and Mohammed Ali Hafiz. Today, it is one of 29 publications produced by Saudi Research & Publishing Company (SRPC), a subsidiary of Saudi Research & Marketing Group (SRMG).

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