Oxfam protesters outside the Group of 8 summit in Lough, Northern Ireland,… (Mark Pearce / EPA )
MOSCOW -- Ahead of President Obama's first meeting this year with his Russian counterpart, Moscow on Monday declared that it would not accept imposition of a "no-fly" zone over Syria, one of its last remaining allies in the Middle East.
“The Russian Federation sees no necessity for the introduction of such measures and considers them counterproductive,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich told a media briefing in Moscow. “We saw the way such a zone is introduced and the way such like decisions are implemented in the example of Libya.”
“We don’t want such a repetition in regard to Syrian conflict, and I think that we won’t allow such a scenario in principle,” he said.
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Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin are expected to meet at a gathering of the Group of 8 industrial nations in Northern Ireland beginning Monday.
Lukashevich said any preparations for imposing a "no-fly" zone, which he maintained were underway in Jordan, are "also a direct violation of international law.”
The Foreign Ministry's statement is the official position of the Putin government, said Igor Korotchenko, editor in chief of the National Defense monthly journal.
“Russia will resolutely block any attempt to carry through the U.N. Security Council any resolution about the imposition of a no-fly over Syria,” he said.
Korotchenko expressed confidence that China would support Russia's stand.
“Besides we have a trump card in our pocket the United States and its Western allies should beware of," he said, referring to the S-300 antiaircraft missiles systems that Russia has said it will provide Syria.
“With S-300s in position, the creation of a 'no-fly' zone will certainly be doomed to failure and fraught with dire circumstances for any aggressor,” he said, noting that the weapon is more effective than the outdated antiaircraft systems U.S. and NATO forces dealt with in recent conflicts.
“Our [S-300] contract with Syria is valid, and Putin recently implied it will be implemented if a need arises,” Korotchenko said.
Lukashevich, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, sounded skeptical about prospects for a peace conference on Syria sponsored by the U.S. and Russia. Such a conference had been expected this month, but the timing is now in doubt.
Given recent developments “it is more difficult to speak about the dates for holding this conference now than a month ago,” he said, apparently referring to Obama's recent statement that the U.S. would begin providing arms to the Syrian rebels.
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