Syrian weapons figures revealed
Syria imported nearly six times more weapons from 2007-2011 than in the previous five-year period, with Russia accounting for 72% of the arms supplies to President Bashar Assad's regime, an international research institute has said.
The report on global arms transfers by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) highlights how Moscow continues to provide Syria with weapons even as the US, the European Union and others impose arms embargoes due to the regime's violent crackdown on protesters.
It did not specify the volume of weapons exports after the start of the uprising in 2011.
Major Russian arms deliveries to Syria in 2007-2011 included air defence systems and anti-ship missiles, which have no direct use in the current unrest in the Arab state. But they have upgraded the regime's capability to defend against outside intervention, Sipri researcher Pieter Wezeman said.
"They increase the risks involved in and therefore the threshold for foreign military intervention like the Nato operation against the Gaddafi regime" in Libya, Mr Wezeman said.
Syria has outstanding orders for 25 Russian MIG-29 combat aircraft, and in late 2011 Russia signed a £348 million deal for 36 Yak-130 light combat aircraft, he said, adding that questions remained about the timing of the deliveries and Syria's ability to pay for them.
"However, when delivered the combat aircraft would augment the Syrian military's capabilities to attack rebel positions if the conflict develops in a similar way as the conflict in e.g. Libya developed," Mr Wezeman said.
The United Nations estimates that Assad's crackdown on the uprising against his regime that began a year ago has killed more than 8,000 people so far.
Syria's weapons imports rose 580% from the 2002-2006 period, lifting the country from 68 to 33 in the rankings of the world's arms importers, Sipri said. Nineteen per cent of Syria's arms imports came from Belarus and 9% from Iran, the report said.
Globally, the report showed conventional weapons transfers jumped 24% in 2007-2011, with the US remaining the No 1 weapons exporter, followed by Russia, Germany, France and Britain. India, South Korea, Pakistan, China and Singapore were the five largest recipients of arms.