Moscow returns fire by accusing US of arming Syria's rebel forces

There are fears for the plight of the people of al-Haffa which has been under siege for eight days

Moscow and Washington were yesterday engaged in a tense war of words over the conflict in Syria, trading barbed accusations over each other's role in arming opposing sides.

In an indication of the breakdown in international diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis, the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, hit back at accusations by the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, that his government was "patently" lying about its weapons shipments to Syria and escalating the situation by supplying attack helicopters to the regime.

Speaking during a visit to Tehran, Mr Lavrov claimed that the US was responsible for an increase in bloodshed, accusing Washington of supplying weapons to the Syrian opposition.

Consensus that the situation on the ground constitutes a full-blown civil war is mounting, with the new French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, yesterday joining the UN peacekeeping chief as defining it as such. Syrian state television yesterday said it had "cleansed" the embattled Latakia town of Al Haffa of "terrorist groups", with troops said to be rounding up scores of men and raiding houses.

Analysts and diplomats say that the Free Syrian Army (FSA) has become better organised and armed in recent months, as weapons shipments begin to seep in from nations such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The US State Department has stressed that it is not providing any lethal equipment to rebels, but has reportedly been helping to co-ordinate shipments from the Gulf. Russia is the main arms supplier to Bashar al-Assad's regime, but says its contracts are in line with UN regulations.

"We are not violating any international law in performing these contracts," said Mr Lavrov. "That contrasts with what the United States is doing, which is providing arms to the Syrian opposition which are being used against the Syrian government."

There are fears that the polarisation of the international community – as laid bare in Ms Clinton and Mr Lavrov's comments – could escalate the violence further as foreign powers engage in a proxy battle as diplomatic resolutions remain hamstrung.

"There's a set of international actors, Russia, Iran as well as Hezbollah who have been supplying support to the regime from the beginning and now we've now started to see some support being provided to the rebels," said Salman Shaikh, an expert on Syria at the Doha Brookings Centre.

"The Gulf states are not going to hold back and unless something dramatic happens its going to be a long, bloody and very regretful summer."

There has been a "shocking escalation" in unlawful killings, torture, arbitrary dentition and wanton destruction of homes by government forces and militias, Amnesty International says in a new report today based on visits to 23 towns and villages during April and May.

There are fears for the plight of the population of the Sunni town of al-Haffa, where the FSA said they pulled out overnight yesterday to avoid the killing of more civilians. The city had been under siege for eight days and one wounded FSA fighter who had escaped said troops were making mass arrested and looting houses.

"We aren't getting much details of what's been going on because communications have been cut since the army stormed the area," said Rafif Joejati, a spokeswoman for the Local Co-ordination Committees. "But when the regime says they've cleansed the area there are fears that the civilian population will have paid the price."

News
Waitrose will be bringing in more manned tills
newsOverheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
Life & Style
life
Arts & Entertainment
Jack Gleeson as Joffrey Baratheon in Game of Thrones
tv
Arts & Entertainment
Ken Loach (left) and Mike Leigh who will be going head to head for one of cinema's most coveted prizes at this year's Cannes Film Festival
filmKen Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
VIDEO
Arts & Entertainment
Ian Anderson, the leader of British rock band Jethro Tull, (right) and British guitar player Martin Barre (left) perform on stage
musicJethro Tull frontman leads ‘prog rock’ revival
Sport
Gareth Bale dribbled from inside his own half and finished calmly late in the final to hand Real a 2-1 win at the Mestalla in Valencia
sport
Arts & Entertainment
Who laughs lass: Jenny Collier on stage
comedy... writes Jenny Collier, the comedian whose recent show was cancelled because there were 'too many women' on the bill
News
House proud: keeping up with the Joneses now extends to children's playhouses
newsLuxury playhouses now on the market for as much as £800
News
news
Extras
indybest
News
The academic, Annamaria Testa, has set out on her website a list of 300 English words that she says Italians ought to stop using
newsAcademic speaks out against 'Italianglo' - the use of English words in Italian language
Life & Style
tech
Arts & Entertainment
Ricky Gervais at a screening of 'Muppets Most Wanted' in London last month
tvRicky Gervais on the return of 'Derek' – and why he still ignores his critics
Sport
Luis Suarez of Liverpool celebrates his goal
sport
Arts & Entertainment
James Franco and Chris O'Dowd in Of Mice and Men on Broadway
theatreReview: Of Mice and Men, Longacre Theatre
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith: The man behind a British success story

Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith

Acton Smith launched a world of virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part
Vespa rides on with launch of Primavera: Iconic Italian scooter still revving up millions of sales

Vespa rides on with launch of the Primavera

The Vespa has been a style icon since the 1950s and the release this month of its latest model confirms it has lost little of its lustre
Record Store Day: Independent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads

Record Store Day celebrates independent music shops

This Saturday sees a host of events around the country to champion the sellers of well-grooved wax
Taunton's policy of putting philosophy at heart of its curriculum is one of secrets of its success

Education: Secret of Taunton's success

Taunton School, in Somerset, is one of the country's leading independent schools, says Richard Garner
10 best smartphones

10 best smartphones

With a number of new smartphones on the market, we round up the best around, including some more established models
Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

The former Australia coach on why England must keep to Plan A, about his shock at their collapse Down Under, why he sent players home from India and the agonies of losing his job
Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
The pain of IVF

The pain of IVF

As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal