Russia has withdrawn refulling requests made to Spain, after concerns expressed by Spain’s Nato allies. Nato had been pressurising Spain to not refuel Russian war ships which are on their way to Syria. The Nato countries were concerned that the war ships could be used in an offense against the civilians in Aleppo, in the ongoing Syrian Civil War.
The UK expressed that it if the ships were refuelled in Spain, there would be extreme concern. The final decision remains with Spain however.
The ships which have been sailing through the English Channel to the Mediterranean were to refuel in Ceuta on the Moroccan coast.
Spain’s foreign ministry reported that they were revising the requests for stopovers, based on the information received from its allies and the Russian authorities. The ministry had requested a clarification from the Russian Federation in Madrid, following the international concerns. The withdrawal of the request came soon after.
Russian ships have often used the Ceuta port since 2011, and according to the Spanish foreign ministry every request was taken into consideration separately.
The Secretary General of Nato- Jen Stoltenberg issued a warning that the warships could be used as a platform by Russia and the Assad regime for increasing the number of airstrikes against the rebels in Aleppo. He maintained however that the decision to let these ships refuel and gather supplies in their port lay with each nation. He suggested that the ships could refuel in different harbours along the route towards the eastern Mediterranean.
The naval group sailing from Russia includes the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, as well as a battleship that is nuclear-powered, a group of support submarines and anti-submarine warships. The group of ships is carrying fighter bombs and helicopters in support vessels. It will join 10 other naval war vessels in the vicinity of the Syrian coast. The Russian Federation confirmed that they had withdrawn the request but gave no further details.
The Syrian Civil war entered its 6th year of active conflict this year. The rebels are backed by US and its Nato allies while the Assad regime is backed by Russia. Russia’s main concern behind not supporting the allies has been the presence of extremist elements in the factions.
The regime and Russia recently came under fire for airstrikes conducted in eastern Aleppo against civilian establishments such as Hospitals and schools, which constitutes as war crimes.