The boasts expressed by Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad on Thursday that his country had taken delivery of an entire system of advanced Russian S-300 anti-aircraft missiles have done nothing to ease tension in the Syrian crisis.
Russia denied the weapons system had been supplied but all those engaged in the conflict are now scrambling to set up new talks.
“I have been urging all the parties who have influence to both sides to urge them to stop fighting and ensure there is no strategy of arms for both sides; just providing arms to either side will not help this process. There is no such military solution in this case. I think only a political process can resolve this issue in a sustainable way,” said the UN’s Ban Ki-Moon.
The Russians have promised S-300 systems even if no deliveries have been made yet. Moscow was furious when the EU lifted its Syrian arms embargo this week.
“The only thing that unites the Syrian National Coalition is their demand for the immediate dismissal of Bashar al-Assad. They have no platform, are not ready to talk, and have impossible pre-conditions. It is clear to all, including our Western partners, that this position is unrealistic,” said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Talks in Geneva next month now look the best bet for progress, and there will be others in the lead-up but Assad is newly confident he holds more cards than the opposition realises.