Sanctions: Syria pleads with Russia for economic aid

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Syria reached out to its powerful ally Russia on Friday, as senior officials pleaded with Moscow for financial loans and supplies of oil products — an indication that international sanctions are squeezing President Bashar Assad’s regime.

The signs of desperation came as resilient rebels fought regime forces in the Syrian capital only two weeks after the government crushed a revolt there. The renewed battles in Damascus show that Assad’s victories could be fleeting as armed opposition groups regroup and resurge.

“The fighting in Damascus today proves that this revolution cannot be extinguished,” said activist Abu Qais al-Shami. “The rebels may be forced to retreat because of the regime’s use of heavy weaponry but they will always come back.”

Syria is thought to be burning quickly through the $17 billion in foreign reserves that the government was believed to have at the start of Assad’s crackdown on a popular uprising that erupted in March 2011. The conflict has turned into a civil war, and rights activists estimate more than 19,000 people.

Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil, who has led a delegation of several Cabinet ministers to Moscow over the past few days, told reporters Friday that they requested a Russian loan to replenish Syria’s hard currency reserves, which have been depleted by a U.S. and European Union embargo on Syrian exports.

He said Damascus also wants to get diesel oil and other oil products from Russia in exchange for crude supplies.

“We are experiencing shortages of diesel oil and gas for heating purposes,” Syrian Oil Minister Said Maza Hanidi said in Moscow. “This unfair blockade has hurt all layers of the population.”

The Syrian regime has blamed sanctions for shortages that have left Syrians across the country standing in long lines to pay inflated prices for cooking gas, fuel, sugar and other staples.

Syrian officials refused to mention specific figures but said that deals with Moscow could be finalized within weeks. There was no immediate comment from the Russian government.

While the Syrian delegation was holding talks in Moscow, a squadron of Russian warships was approaching Syria’s port of Tartus, the only naval base Russia has outside the former Soviet Union.

Russian news agencies reported that two of the three amphibious assault ships will call at Tartus while the third will cast anchor just outside the port.

They said that each of the three ships is carrying about 120 marines backed by armored vehicles. It wasn’t immediately clear whether some of the marines will stay to protect Tartus. Some Russian media said the marines were supposed to ensure a safe evacuation of Russian personnel and navy equipment from the base if necessary.

Russia has protected Syria from U.N. sanctions and continued to supply it with weapons throughout the conflict. The Kremlin, backed by fellow veto-wielding U.N. Security Council member China, has blocked any plans that would call on Assad to step down.

On Friday, the U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly denounced Syria’s crackdown in a symbolic effort meant to push the deadlocked Security Council and the world at large into action on stopping the civil war.

Before the vote, Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon accused the Syrian regime of possible war crimes and drew comparisons between the failure to act in Syria with the international community’s failure to protect people from past genocide in Srebrenica and Rwanda.

“The conflict in Syria is a test of everything this organization stands for,” Ban said. “I do not want today’s United Nations to fail that test.”

Syrian Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari called the resolution’s main sponsors, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain, “despotic oligarchies.”

“The draft resolution will have no impact whatsoever. It is a piece of theater,” he told reporters after the vote. And Iran’s No. 2 ambassador, Eshagh Alehabib, called the resolution “one-sided.”

Assad’s regime stands accused of a number of massacres in which hundreds of civilians, including women and children, were killed. The Syrian government blames gunmen driven by a foreign agenda for the killings, but the U.N. and other witnesses have confirmed that at least some were carried out by pro-regime vigilante groups, known as shabiha.

But the recent emergence of videos showing summary executions committed by rebel forces — albeit on a far smaller scale than the regime’s alleged atrocities — is making it more difficult for the Syrian opposition to claim the moral high ground.

With the civil war becoming increasingly vicious, chances for a diplomatic solution were fading after the resignation Thursday of Kofi Annan, the U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria. Annan cited divisions within the Security Council preventing a united approach to stop the fighting.

The fighting continued Friday in the country’s two most important cities, Aleppo and Damascus.

In Damascus, residents reported loud explosions and plumes of smoke over the southern edge of the city Friday, as frightened people stayed at home.

“The bombs are back, I have been hearing explosions all day,” a resident of central Damascus told The Associated Press, asking to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals.

Government forces crushed a rebel assault on Damascus two weeks ago, but pockets of resistance remain including the southern neighborhood of Tadamon, where most of Friday’s fighting took place.

Late Friday, Syria’s official news agency SANA said government forces had hunted down the remnants of the “terrorist mercenaries” — its term for the rebels — in Tadamon. It said several were killed and many others wounded.

Al-Shami and other activists said troops backed by dozens of tanks and armored vehicles broke into Tadamon on Friday evening, forcing a fresh wave of residents spilling into nearby areas for shelter.

Many Damascus residents had earlier taken refuge in the country’s largest Palestinian refugee camp, Yarmouk, where mortar shells raining down on a crowded marketplace killed 21 people late Thursday.

Nevertheless, there were signs that rebels may be planning another run on Damascus in an effort to drain the army’s resources as fighting stretches into its second week in Aleppo, 350 kilometers (215 miles) to the north.

The U.N. peacekeeping chief, Herve Ladsous, warned of a major government assault on Aleppo in the coming days to retake the rebel-held neighborhoods.

“The focus is now on Aleppo, where there has been a considerable buildup of military means,” he told reporters in New York late Thursday after briefing the Security Council on his trip to Syria. “We have reason to believe that the main battle is about to start.”

The Associated Press

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11 responses to “Sanctions: Syria pleads with Russia for economic aid”

  1. breakthemould Avatar
    breakthemould

    It is really a total puzzle to me even with my simple brain. How come he is educated in London, we are told. And she is educated and worked in Wall Street. What did they see in London or in NY? did that not tell them that their methods are yesterday’s methods and don’t work no more? why many people know this and they don’t?

    1. 5thDrawer Avatar
      5thDrawer

      People are educated in ‘technical’ subjects – perhaps educated – as the push in world economies is for that – but are rarely educated in ‘The Humanities’. Most do not choose to be. Money is the #1 reason for educating our youth. Right?
      This is one reason ‘The Arts’ are always first to suffer in economic downturns. 
      People walk all over the world’s greatest ‘free’ cities, but rarely consider the human changes and sacrifices it actually took to put them there. Or what it takes to keep them there.
      SO … now another generation is being shown the bombed-out remains and results of un-humanitarian thinking.
      After that, one can think about culture …..

      1. breakthemould Avatar
        breakthemould

         I am not sure that this is what I meant, university degrees and specialty subjects and all that. I meant in ways of life. In the UK you drive along a narrow street and see another car come the other way, You give in for the other motorist to pass the narrow stretch and then after he has gone you move one. Or, the other man does this to you and you thank him by waving your hand showing your appreciation of what he did and he will do the same to you. Any how both cars as a result end up proceeding faster than the way they do it in Beirut or Damascus. So, this is what I meant in education. One does not need a Phd to realise that this is the better way. And incidentally it is quicker for both parties. When we can learn this we can get into the direction of democracy, I think. Our leaders existing or the ones to come need to know that they can do it for 4 years no more. Then another man or woman can come in and be president or prime minister etc. This is the sort of thing that Bashar & Asma should have realised from living in the west. This is without doing economic degrees, humanity or classic Greek. This is civilisation and without which cities cannot survive. Give way to others, and realise that others may have a better idea on how to do some things than you. Do not monopolize like the prime minister of Bahrain. 42 years same prime minister. Why. Once cannot even be as good a man from year to year as we humans decline with years. I was told he is prime minister for all those years because he is the King’s uncle. Shame on all these leaders to think that they are the only ones who know what is best for all of us making us think we are all idiots.

        1. 5thDrawer Avatar
          5thDrawer

          Yes … see your point now … but then again, it is education. More in this sort from early ages needs to done if you wish results for future …
          The child questions the father on why the car had to stop or give way. The father explains that there are ‘rules of the road’ that everyone follows because they are sensible and help keep everyone safe, and it is the right or friendly thing to do. The child learns.
          This where education needs to be considered ‘proper’. Emulation from the natural love.
          If your example to your child is cutting people off and cursing and blowing the horn all the time, or explaining that ‘laws’ were made to be broken, it will take a smarter mind to make him different in future … and/or hopefully his own will see the father was not a good example.
          Then, of course, there are people who believe they are above everyone else even from an early age, and should not need to follow laws or societies or have respect for humanity. As children they may not have had the lesson with a hand on the ass. :-0
          But some get that idea about themselves later in life … when it is too hard to change.
          I am sure they enjoyed their lives in England or New York. Wasn’t that their ‘right’?
          If your despot father hands you a kingdom he ‘won’ by his methods, why not believe everything you see in all the world around you is there to serve only you, and that those same methods are viable in your own time when ‘your people’ ask for more?

          Ok. Raise your hands. How many think they are more important than any other?? 😉

        2. breakthemould Avatar
          breakthemould

           We think alike. I think that Hama worked for Hafez and gave him/his family 30 years of no one daring to open his mouth and protest publicly. So, the son thought it worked for my father, I am going to follow his footsteps and do the same. It is not working for him this time. But the strange thing is he has not heard this one: The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. He is doing just that now. And by now he should have realised that it is not working like it did for his dad. Some one should tell him this please. The Russians?? if his sister doesn’t?

      2. breakthemould Avatar
        breakthemould

         I am not sure that this is what I meant, university degrees and specialty subjects and all that. I meant in ways of life. In the UK you drive along a narrow street and see another car come the other way, You give in for the other motorist to pass the narrow stretch and then after he has gone you move one. Or, the other man does this to you and you thank him by waving your hand showing your appreciation of what he did and he will do the same to you. Any how both cars as a result end up proceeding faster than the way they do it in Beirut or Damascus. So, this is what I meant in education. One does not need a Phd to realise that this is the better way. And incidentally it is quicker for both parties. When we can learn this we can get into the direction of democracy, I think. Our leaders existing or the ones to come need to know that they can do it for 4 years no more. Then another man or woman can come in and be president or prime minister etc. This is the sort of thing that Bashar & Asma should have realised from living in the west. This is without doing economic degrees, humanity or classic Greek. This is civilisation and without which cities cannot survive. Give way to others, and realise that others may have a better idea on how to do some things than you. Do not monopolize like the prime minister of Bahrain. 42 years same prime minister. Why. Once cannot even be as good a man from year to year as we humans decline with years. I was told he is prime minister for all those years because he is the King’s uncle. Shame on all these leaders to think that they are the only ones who know what is best for all of us making us think we are all idiots.

  2. breakthemould Avatar
    breakthemould

    It is really a total puzzle to me even with my simple brain. How come he is educated in London, we are told. And she is educated and worked in Wall Street. What did they see in London or in NY? did that not tell them that their methods are yesterday’s methods and don’t work no more? why many people know this and they don’t?

    1. 5thDrawer Avatar
      5thDrawer

      People are educated in ‘technical’ subjects – perhaps – as the push in world economies is for that – but are rarely educated in ‘The Humanities’. Most do not choose to be. Money is the #1 reason for educating our youth. Right?
      This is one reason ‘The Arts’ are always first to suffer in economic downturns. 
      People walk all over the world’s greatest ‘free’ cities, but rarely consider the human changes and sacrifices it actually took to put them there. Or what it takes to keep them there.
      SO … now another generation is being shown the bombed-out remains and results of un-humanitarian thinking.
      After that, one can think about culture …..

      1. breakthemould Avatar
        breakthemould

         I am not sure that this is what I meant, university degrees and specialty subjects and all that. I meant in ways of life. In the UK you drive along a narrow street and see another car come the other way, You give in for the other motorist to pass the narrow stretch and then after he has gone you move one. Or, the other man does this to you and you thank him by waving your hand showing your appreciation of what he did and he will do the same to you. Any how both cars as a result end up proceeding faster than the way they do it in Beirut or Damascus. So, this is what I meant in education. One does not need a Phd to realise that this is the better way. And incidentally it is quicker for both parties. When we can learn this we can get into the direction of democracy, I think. Our leaders existing or the ones to come need to know that they can do it for 4 years no more. Then another man or woman can come in and be president or prime minister etc. This is the sort of thing that Bashar & Asma should have realised from living in the west. This is without doing economic degrees, humanity or classic Greek. This is civilisation and without which cities cannot survive. Give way to others, and realise that others may have a better idea on how to do some things than you. Do not monopolize like the prime minister of Bahrain. 42 years same prime minister. Why. Once cannot even be as good a man from year to year as we humans decline with years. I was told he is prime minister for all those years because he is the King’s uncle. Shame on all these leaders to think that they are the only ones who know what is best for all of us making us think we are all idiots.

        1. 5thDrawer Avatar
          5thDrawer

          Yes … see your point now … but then again, it is education. More in this sort from early ages needs to done if you wish results for future …
          The child questions the father on why the car had to stop or give way. The father explains that there are ‘rules of the road’ that everyone follows because they are sensible and help keep everyone safe, and it is the right or friendly thing to do. The child learns.
          This where education needs to be considered ‘proper’. Emulation from the natural love.
          If your example to your child is cutting people off and cursing and blowing the horn all the time, or explaining that ‘laws’ were made to be broken, it will take a smarter mind to make him different in future … and/or hopefully his own will see the father was not a good example.
          Then, of course, there are people who believe they are above everyone else even from an early age, and should not need to follow laws or societies or have respect for humanity. As children they may not have had the lesson with a hand on the ass. :-0
          But some get that idea about themselves later in life … when it is too hard to change.
          I am sure they enjoyed their lives in England or New York. Wasn’t that their ‘right’?
          If your despot father hands you a kingdom he ‘won’ by his methods, why not believe everything you see in all the world around you is there to serve only you, and that those same methods are viable in your own time when ‘your people’ ask for more?

          Ok. Raise your hands. How many think they are more important than any other?? 😉

        2. breakthemould Avatar
          breakthemould

           We think alike. I think that Hama worked for Hafez and gave him/his family 30 years of no one daring to open his mouth and protest publicly. So, the son thought it worked for my father, I am going to follow his footsteps and do the same. It is not working for him this time. But the strange thing is he has not heard this one: The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. He is doing just that now. And by now he should have realised that it is not working like it did for his dad. Some one should tell him this please. The Russians?? if his sister doesn’t?

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