A reported Russian arms shipment to Syria was “reprehensible” although it did not break any laws and the results of a Syrian government inquiry into a massacre in al-Houla was a “blatant lie,” the U.S. envoy to the United Nations said on Thursday as a rights group said that the Russian shipment of weapons has docked at the Syrian port of Tartus last weekend.
“With respect to the reported docking of a ship carrying Russian arms, this is obviously of the utmost concern,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice told reporters.
“It is not technically obviously a violation of international law ... but it’s reprehensible that arms would continue to flow to a regime that is using such horrific and disproportionate force against its own people,” she said.
Meanwhile, a rights group said on Thursday that a Russian cargo ship that Western officials say was heavily laden with weapons for the government of Syria docked at the Syrian port of Tartus last weekend.
“Today’s updated shipping databases show that the Professor Katsman did in fact dock in the port of Tartus on May 26, 2012 before heading to Piraeus, Greece,” Sadia Hameed of Human Rights First told Reuters.
Western officials confirmed her remarks, adding that they understood the ship had been carrying arms for the government of Syria, which for 14 months has been using its security forces to attack an increasingly militarized opposition.
A spokesman for Russia’s U.N. mission said he would look into the issue.
Hameed said that Human Rights First had been tracking the ship from May 25-27 and discovered “a window of time on May 26 when the ship’s transponder appears to have shut off.”
Syria is one of Russia’s top weapons customers. The United States and European Union have suggested the U.N. Security Council should impose an arms embargo and other U.N. sanctions on Syria for its 14-month assault on a pro-democracy opposition determined to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
But Russia, with the support of fellow veto power China, has prevented the council from imposing any U.N. sanctions on Syria and has refused to halt arms sales to Damascus.