France: Days of Assad’s government are numbered.
MOSCOW/PARIS – Moscow is deploying war ships at its base in the Syrian port of Tartus. The Russian battle group will consist of three vessels led by the heavy aircraft-carrying missile cruiser, Admiral Kuznetsov, Russia Today said. Russian military officials insist that the move has no connection with the ongoing crisis in the region and was planned a year ago, the Izvestia newspaper reports. Apart from Syria, the aircraft carrier and its escort ships are set to visit the Lebanese capital, Beirut, Genoa in Italy and Cyprus, says the former Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Viktor Kravchenko.
Nevertheless, he added that the presence of a military force other than NATO’s is very useful for this region, because “it will prevent the outbreak of an armed conflict,” Izvestia quoted Kravchenko as saying.
News of Russia’s naval deployment in Tartus came shortly after the US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George HW Bush anchored off Syria, along with additional naval vessels. The US battle group is to remain in the Mediterranean, allegedly to conduct maritime security operations and support missions as part of Operations Enduring Freedom and New Dawn. The US 6th Fleet is also patrolling the area, Interfax reports. “Of course, the Russian naval forces in the Mediterranean will be incommensurate with those of the US 6th Fleet, which includes one or two aircraft carriers and several escort ships,” Admiral Kravchenko explained. “But today, no one talks about possible military clashes, since an attack on any Russian ship would be regarded as a declaration of war with all the consequences.”
The move came as French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said yesterday time is running out for the Syrian leader after the Arab League agreed sanctions against Damascus over its crackdown on pro-democracy protests, the BBC said. The league approved unprecedented sanctions on Sunday, including an asset freeze and an embargo on investments.
Juppe told French radio the days of the Syrian government were “numbered” as it was “totally isolated”.