BEIRUT

Middle East

Russia warns Saudi against giving Syria rebels missiles

  • Rebel fighter prepare the bases to launch homemade missiles during clashes with pro-regime fighters in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on February 24, 2014. (AFP PHOTO/MEDO HALAB)

KIEV: Russia on Tuesday warned Saudi Arabia against supplying Syrian rebels with shoulder-launched missile launchers, saying such a move would endanger security across the Middle East and beyond.

The Russian foreign ministry said in a statement that it was "deeply concerned" by news reports that Saudi Arabia was planning to buy Pakistani-made shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles and anti-tank systems for armed Syrian rebels based in Jordan.

It said that the aim was to alter the balance of power in a planned spring offensive by rebels on the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

"If this sensitive weapon falls into the hands of extremists and terrorists who have flooded Syria, there is a great probability that in the end it will be used far from the borders of this Middle Eastern country," the foreign ministry said.

Long-existing tensions between Russia and Saudi Arabia have intensified further as a result of the Syria conflict, with Moscow standing by Assad but Riyadh offering open support for the rebels.

Russia is widely seen as Assad's last remaining major ally in a conflict that has left an estimated 140,000 people dead since it began as a peaceful uprising in March 2011.

 
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