PARIS, March 29 (RIA Novosti) – In a prime-time interview on France 2 TV on Thursday, French President Francois Hollande accused Russia of violating an embargo on arms supplies to Syria.
Russia has repeatedly denied media reports that it was sending warships to Syria and delivering weapons to Damascus.
“We follow the rules. The embargo is being violated by Russians, who supply Bashar al-Assad with weapons. That’s the problem,” he said.
Russia’s official position, confirmed by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov in February, is that Russia will not carry out fresh arms deliveries to the Syrian government, but is only supplying arms and military equipment under contracts signed before the civil war.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has earlier said that Russia’s military equipment supplied to Syria is intended for defense from outside aggression and cannot be used in a civil war.
The French President also said that it was too early to send weapons to Syrian rebels, as there was no guarantee that they would not fall into the hands of Islamist fighters.
“We will not do it if there is no certainty that these weapons will be used by the legitimate opposition,” he said.
The statement comes as an apparent reversal of the stance that France took last week.
During a European Council meeting, envoys of France and Britain tried to convince other European nations to ease the EU embargo on weapons supplies to Syria, but failed. The issue, however, will be raised at a meeting of EU foreign ministers slated for this weekend.