U.S. Summons Syrian Diplomat over Alleged Arms Transfer to Hezbollah
The United States summoned a senior Syrian diplomat Monday over his country's "provocative behavior" linked to a possible arms transfer to Hezbollah, the State Department said.
State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid released a statement condemning "in the strongest terms" any transfer of arms to Hezbollah and calling for an immediate cessation of any arms transfer of this kind. "The transfer of these arms can only have a destabilizing effect on the region, and would pose an immediate threat to both the security of Israel and the sovereignty of Lebanon," Duguid said.
"The most senior Syrian diplomat present in Washington today, Deputy Chief of Mission Zouheir Jabbour, was summoned to the Department of State to review Syria's provocative behavior concerning the potential transfer of arms to Hezbollah," said Duguid.
"The United States condemns in the strongest terms the transfer of any arms, and especially ballistic missile systems such as the SCUD, from Syria to Hezbollah," he added.
Earlier this month, the Kuwaiti daily Al-Rai Al-Aam reported that Syria had shipped ballistic Scud missiles to Hezbollah resistance fighters in Lebanon. Washington and Tel Aviv took advantage of the newspaper's report and created an uproar. Hezbollah described the US-Israeli fuss as a media uproar.
"The risk of miscalculation that could result from this type of escalation should make Syria reverse the ill-conceived policy it has pursued in providing arms to Hezbollah," Duguid said, stressing that the move was an impediment to achieving a comprehensive peace in the Middle East.
Duguid stressed this was the fourth time such concerns were raised with the Syrian Embassy in recent months. "Our dialogue with Syria on this issue has been frank and sustained. We expect the same in return," he said.
Doubts were raised by U.S. officials on Friday over whether the Scuds were delivered in full and whether they were moved to Lebanon, an allegation denied by Damascus. Hezbollah leaders refuse to confirm or deny the reports.
Israeli officials say the introduction of Scuds could alter the strategic balance with Hezbollah, who battled Israel in a month-long war in 2006 and defeated it. Hezbollah pelted Israel with nearly 4,000 unguided Katyusha rockets during the aggression, causing widespread damage and dozens of casualties in the Zionist entity's north. Scud missiles have several times the range, explosive firepower, and accuracy of Katyusha rockets and would pose a much more serious threat.