Syria starts using new weapons from Russia

September 18, 2015 09:01
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem has confirmed Russia is providing new weapons to Syria and training government troops. Photo: IBT

Syria is using new air and ground weapons supplied by Russia, raising alarm in the United States.

Reuters is quoting a Syrian military source as saying these are new types of weapons which are highly effective and "very accurate".

The Syrian army had been trained in the use of the weapons in recent months and was now deploying them.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said on Thursday  that Russia had provided new weapons and trained Syrian troops how to use them but did not give details.

He told state television the government would be prepared to go further and ask Russian forces to fight alongside its troops if needed, although he said there were no such soldiers there now.

On Thursday, the Russian government said its military support for Damascus is aimed at fighting terrorism, safeguarding Syria's statehood and preventing a "total catastrophe" in the region.

It includes a larger Russian military presence on the ground in Syria, where President Bashar al-Assad has faced increased pressure this year from rebels fighting to topple him.

Washington, which wants Assad gone from power, has said it believes Russia is undertaking a significant military buildup which could exacerbate the war.

Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook condemned any new Russian assistance to Syrian saying it would be "counterproductive to the ultimate solution in Syria, which we think is a political and diplomatic solution, not a military solution."

The US, along with Saudi Arabia and Turkey, have supported insurgents battling to unseat Assad, whose foreign military backing has so far come mostly from Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah.

A US-led coalition is also bombing Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq, raising the prospect of a potential clash between U.S. and Russian air forces.

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