(LONDON) — Russia says it will halt arms shipments to Syria and will not sign new arms contracts with President Bashar al-Assad as the conflict in that country continues, a Russian official said Monday, according to local news reports. Russia is Syria’s biggest supplier of arms.
Monday’s announcement comes on the same day that Russia’s foreign minister met in Moscow with representatives of the Syrian opposition and that United Nations special emissary Kofi Annan told reporters in Damascus that he and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have reached an agreement on how to end the violence that activists say has claimed some 17,000 lives.
“We agreed on a approach which we would also share with the armed, which I will share with the armed opposition,” Annan said without providing further details.
Russia remains opposed to foreign intervention in Syria, fearing a Libya-style ouster of its last ally in the Middle East.
The announcement from Russia on Monday would be the most significant step the Kremlin has taken thus far to back off its staunch support for the regime. Previously, Russia had insisted in fulfilling existing arms contracts with Syria, which included shipping back refurbished attack helicopters and components for Russian-made surface-to-air missile systems.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Ralph Ellis, Ben Wedeman and Michael Pearson, CNN