CAIRO - Moscow is supplying arms to Syria under Soviet-era commitments and were meant for defense against external threats, not to support President Bashar Assad, Russia's foreign minister told an Egyptian newspaper.
Russia sold the Syrian government $1 billion worth of weapons last year and has made clear it would oppose an arms embargo in the United Nations Security Council, contending that rebels would get weapons illegally anyway.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Egypt's state al-Ahram daily in an interview published on Monday that the arms still being sent to Damascus were part of old Soviet contracts and did not violate international law.
"We do not side with any faction in Syria's internal battle," Lavrov was quoted as saying. "As for the Russian-Syrian technical military cooperation, it aims to support Syria's defense capabilities in the face of external political threat, and not to back Bashar Assad."