Reports of Pakistani arms for Syrian rebels are baseless, says FO spokesperson

Published: February 24, 2014
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COAS General Raheel Sharif in a meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz in Islamabad on February 17, 2014. PHOTO: ISPR

COAS General Raheel Sharif in a meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz in Islamabad on February 17, 2014. PHOTO: ISPR

Pakistani officials said there is no truth in the reports that Saudi govt has shown interest in buying Pakistani arms for the Syrian rebels.

AFP, quoting its sources, had claimed on Sunday that if the deal is finalised, Saudi Arabia will buy antiaircraft guns and anti-tank rockets from Pakistan.

Talking to BBC Urdu on Monday, the Foreign Office Spokesperson Tasnim Aslam asserted that such reports at “baseless and have no sense”. She added, “The media concocts reports which have no reality.”

The AFP had said: Saudi Arabia is in talks with Pakistan to provide anti-aircraft and anti-tank rockets to Syrian rebels to try to tip the balance in the war to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, a Saudi source said on Sunday.

The United States has long opposed arming the rebels with such weapons, fearing they might end up in the hands of extremists, but Syrian opposition figures say the failure of Geneva peace talks seems to have led Washington to soften its opposition.

Pakistan makes its own version of Chinese shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles, known as Anza, and anti-tank rockets — both of which Riyadh is trying to get for the rebels, said the source, who is close to Saudi decision-makers, requesting anonymity.

The source pointed to a visit to Riyadh earlier this month by Pakistan’s army chief of staff, General Raheel Sharif, who met Crown Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz.

Prince Salman himself last week led a large delegation to Pakistan, shortly after Saudi’s chief diplomat Prince Saud al-Faisal visited the kingdom’s key ally.

Jordan will be providing facilities to store the weapons before they are delivered to rebels within Syria, the same source said.

AFP could not obtain confirmation from officials in Saudi, Pakistan or Jordan.

The head of the Syrian opposition, Ahmad Jarba, promised during a flying visit to northern Syria last week that “powerful arms will be arriving soon.”

“The United States could allow their allies provide the rebels with anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons following the failure of Geneva talks and the renewed tension with Russia,” said the head of the Gulf Research Centre, Abdel Aziz al-Sager.

Providing those weapons to the rebels “relieves pressure on the US in the short-term,” said Simon Henderson, director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Programme at the Washington Institue for Near East Policy.

“But the long-term political worry is that Manpads (Man-portable air-defence systems) will leak and be used to bring down a civilian airliner somewhere in the world.”

Rebels have long said that anti-aircraft rockets would help them defend themselves against Syrian warplanes, which regularly bomb rebel-held areas with barrels loaded with TNT and other ordinance.

The nearly-three-year conflict in Syria has torn the country apart, killing more than 140,000 people, including some 50,000 civilians, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Rising Saudi influence

Saudi Arabia has a strong influence on Syria’s southern front, where it coordinates with Jordan, and has helped unite the rebel fighters in the area, according to Syrian opposition sources.

On the other hand, Qatar and Turkey are responsible for coordinating with the rebels on the northern front, said an official of the Syrian opposition, requesting anonymity.

Saudi Arabia has come to eclipse Qatar as the main supporter of the Syrian rebels, a development illustrated by the election last July of Ahmad Jarba, who has strong Saudi links, to lead the Syrian National Coalition, the main umbrella opposition group.

The trend appeared to continue with the dismissal last week of General Selim Idriss, the top commander of the Western-backed Free Syrian Army, who was considered close to Qatar, according to an opposition source.

The main criticism of Idriss was “bad distribution of weapons” and “errors in battle,” said another opposition source.

Idriss, who has refused his dismissal, has been replaced by Brigadier General Abdel Ilah al-Bashir, the leader of the rebel military council for the region of Quneitra in southern Syria.

On its internal front, Saudi Arabia has sidelined intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan, who had been leading Riyadh’s efforts concerning Syria, according to a Western diplomat.

Diplomats have said that the file has been passed to the interior minister, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, known for his successful crackdown on Al-Qaeda following a wave of deadly attacks in the kingdom between 2003 and 2006.

Bandar’s management had triggered American criticism, diplomats said.

The Saudi royal himself has reproached Washington for its decision not to intervene militarily in Syria, and for preventing its allies from providing rebels with much-needed weapons, diplomats added.

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Reader Comments (27)

  • Sara Khan
    Feb 24, 2014 - 8:52PM

    If Pak military can blow up Pakistanis to earn american $$, they can do anything to earn Saudi riyals…. that’s an inconvenient truth……Recommend

  • Naseer
    Feb 24, 2014 - 8:53PM

    Really! The Saudis are dying to provide lethal weapons to the hardcore rebels. Saudis have the money and will the desired weapons regardless and expand their buzzare school of thought all around the world.Recommend

  • ikram
    Feb 24, 2014 - 9:10PM

    Tasnim Aslam makes no sense.Recommend

  • Rizvi
    Feb 24, 2014 - 9:19PM

    The whole world knows it but our ARMY just wants to deny it. lolRecommend

  • Ch. Allah Daad
    Feb 24, 2014 - 9:41PM

    Rebels have American, Russian and British weapons but nobody is complaining. Recommend

  • saeed
    Feb 24, 2014 - 9:42PM

    Here goes our saudi prince of raiwind. Wow, how could our governments can do blunders after blunders. Recommend

  • Sohail
    Feb 24, 2014 - 10:23PM

    If Saudis want the rebels to have these types of weapons…they will get from from Pakistan or from somewhere else.Recommend

  • ria
    Feb 24, 2014 - 10:38PM

    syrian govt is in deeeeeeeeeeeeeep crisis………..Recommend

  • Rojer
    Feb 24, 2014 - 11:20PM

    I support Saudis here.Recommend

  • Mirza
    Feb 25, 2014 - 12:04AM

    Pakistan has a civil war going in our own country. Why do we need to butt in another civil war? Pakistani jihadists are already taking part in Syrian civil war and many dead bodies are quietly arriving in Punjab especially Jhung. Now our Saudi masters want us to supply weapons to the Salfi/Whabi opposition to the secular govt of Syria and we can never refuse money.

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  • Essar Karim
    Feb 25, 2014 - 12:06AM

    @Sara Khan:

    Pakistani Army can do anything to make money….

    Recommend

  • imran bhatt
    Feb 25, 2014 - 12:09AM

    They were obviously not here to order copious amount of chicken curry, were they?

    Recommend

  • Sexton Blake
    Feb 25, 2014 - 12:10AM

    Pakistan is merely a puppet of the US/Zionist combo. Like most of the Western leaders Nawaz Sharif will do exactly what he is told to do, and this could be overt, covert or merely verbal support..

    Recommend

  • Nahas
    Feb 25, 2014 - 12:15AM

    Saudiis are bad news fot everyone. I just hope and pray that we don’t get mixed up in something which doesn’t concern us!

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  • Zeauddin Khan Kolkata
    Feb 25, 2014 - 12:47AM

    @Sara Khan:
    If Pakistan want to sell Some Military equipment to Saudi arabia then what is the problem..This could provide opportunity to earn some $$ money and will also help Syrian rebels to overthrow dictator Syrian Government who is killing its own people.

    Recommend

  • Feb 25, 2014 - 2:14AM

    the iranian regimes lobby in Pakistan due to over zealous pakistani shia who think iran is heaven (though iranian shia would laugh at this idea as they hate the existing regime) sends these rumors to put pressure on pakistani govt and military … i say these rumors are made in iran

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  • Al-Bakistan
    Feb 25, 2014 - 6:11AM

    Riyals speak louder than words !

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  • Laeeq
    Feb 25, 2014 - 8:07AM

    HELLO PEOPLE:: WHAT IS THE PROBLEM IF PAKISTANI MILITARY SELLS IT WEAPONS ?

    Recommend

  • on a lighter note
    Feb 25, 2014 - 10:29AM

    “But the long-term political worry is that Manpads will leak”

    Could they not come up with a better term???

    Recommend

  • Mirza
    Feb 25, 2014 - 11:23AM

    Saudi King and his family members need arms to overthrow a “dictator”. Can there be a more shameful example?Recommend

  • Munir Ahmed
    Feb 25, 2014 - 1:03PM

    @Laeeq: how would you like if UAE buys anti aircraft missiles from Indian for Talibans in Pakistan.

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  • Naveed Alam Khattak
    Feb 25, 2014 - 4:17PM

    Please stay away from any such adventure. we have nothing to do with syria or saudi arabia. Concentrate on your own countyr and this is need of the time.

    Recommend

  • Sara Khan
    Feb 25, 2014 - 6:33PM

    @Zeauddin Khan Kolkata: We have to get our own house in order before selling weapons to cause more deaths.

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  • Manoj
    Feb 25, 2014 - 6:39PM

    Weapons not needed. The Syrian army sells weapons to these rebels(ofcourse the corrupt officials). My peaceful-activist cum reporter friend who escaped from death squads to Lebanon said that. The dictator and the paid foreign mercenaries(who prey more on civilians rather than on army) deserve death. There are many genuine rebels too. This is partly sectarian butchery(foreign funded?) + true rebellion combined.Recommend

  • Rizvi
    Feb 26, 2014 - 5:13AM

    if Allah is with Iran & Bashar al Assad then nobody including America/Nato/Turkey & now Pakistan can do anything about it. Pakistanis know how easily they can sell themselves for $$. But this doesn’t mean we should go against Muslims. Why always America/Nato support insurgencies against Muslim country rulers?

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  • Zeauddin Khan Kolkata
    Feb 26, 2014 - 6:11AM

    @Sara Khan:
    Yes that’s ur Personal thought towards your Country it is Good..I am against the Killing of Innocent Civilians and Causing more death by Supplying weapons..Pakistan is not as much as unstable country yes there is a Some difficult situation is faced by Pakistan peoples by Terrorism attacks but Still is an emerging economy and will be in stable position in near future.Now Every Country is Selling weapons and earning huge amount of $$ money..If Pakistan will Sell some weapons to Syrian rebels there is no issue and against such dictator who is killing its own people..Salam

    Recommend

  • sohail khan
    Feb 26, 2014 - 10:58AM

    What is the harrm if Pakistani sell weapons to Saudi Arabia. Such defensive weapons SA can easily buy from any where. If SA is helping rebels fighting against ruthless dectator Basharul Asad of Syria, it should be praised rather than criticised. More than hundred thousands innocent citizens have been killed in this war and millions migrated to other neighbouring countries. Very strange world peace-loving and democratic people are not raising voice on the big humanitrian issue due to political inerests.

    Recommend

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