The European Union's decision to end its embargo on arming the opposition in Syria has been followed by sharp criticism from Russia's foreign ministry and word that Russia will follow through on plans to deliver anti-aircraft missiles to President Bashar Assad's military.
According to the BBC, "Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the [Russian] missiles were a 'stabilizing factor' that could dissuade 'some hotheads' from entering the conflict."
Russia has been one of Assad's few foreign friends since protests against the Syrian president's regime began in March 2011 and during the sectarian civil war that has followed. As NPR's Corey Flintoff reports from Moscow, Russia says the weapons it has delivered and the missiles it will be sending are part of arms deals that were signed before the conflict began.
From London, NPR's Philip Reeves says Russian diplomats believe the EU's decision undermines the chances of a possible peace conference aimed at ending Syria's civil war. From Moscow, Corey adds that "Russia's foreign ministry acted as if the Europeans were sabotaging Russian and U.S. efforts to bring the warring parties to the bargaining table."
Just two weeks ago, British Prime Minister David Cameron was hailing Russia's agreement to take part in such peace talks. That was "a real breakthrough," Cameron said.
Though EU ministers have agreed to end their nations' embargo on arming the Syrian opposition, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Monday that his nation has "no immediate plans to send arms to Syria." The Associated Press adds that "no other EU member appeared to have immediate plans to send arms to the rebels."
Update at 1:05 p.m. ET. Israel Warns Russia:
"Israel's defense minister on Tuesday signaled that his military is prepared to strike shipments of advanced Russian weapons to Syria, in a rare implied threat to Moscow," The Associated Press reports from Jerusalem. "Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon issued his warning shortly after a top Russian official said his government reserves the right to provide Syria with state-of-the-art S-300 air defense missiles."