Skip to main content

Syria-bound Russian cargo ship turning back, British diplomat says

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 8:45 PM EDT, Tue June 19, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • UK Foreign Secretary William Hague says the ship appears to be headed toward Russia
  • He said Britain is discouraging anyone from supplying arms to Syria
  • Chemical weapons in Syria are a concern, Hague said
  • He says focus is on peaceful transition, but "we cannot take any options off the table"

(CNN) -- A Russian cargo ship reported to be carrying arms to Syria is turning back, Britain's top diplomat said Tuesday.

"I am pleased that the ship that was reported to be carrying arms to Syria has turned back apparently towards Russia," British Foreign Secretary William Hague told the House of Commons.

U.S. officials have said that the Russian operator Femco's cargo ship, MV Alaed, was headed for Syria with attack helicopters and munitions for the al-Assad regime from the port of Kaliningrad. The vessel had been off the north coast of Scotland, according to ship tracking data.

Hague commented on a ship during questions about the fighting in Syria during a wide-ranging House of Commons question-and-answer session about foreign policy. He didn't name the vessel.

Syrian opposition uniting to topple al-Assad

Is Russian ship carrying arms to Syria?
Did U.S. fail to lead on Syria?
Obama, Putin in Syria standoff

He mentioned the status of the ship when asked whether "every peaceful diplomatic effort is being made to prevent the Syrian government from getting its hands on weapons that can be used against its own people."

Hague also cited a European Union arms embargo on Syria.

"We discourage anyone else from supplying arms to Syria," he said. "We have had discussions with Russia about that specifically."

He answered a question about how to approach the issue of chemical weaponry in Syria. Hague said that such weapons are a concern and that he's "confident that the international community" would pursue any action to deal with the issue, but he wouldn't elaborate.

The Standard Club, a UK marine insurer, said it has stopped coverage for the Alaed. The withdrawal of coverage applies to the whole Femco fleet of eight vessels entered with the company, Standard Club officials said.

Syria exposes cool spots in U.S.-Russia ties

"We were made aware of the allegations that the Alaed was carrying munitions destined for Syria and have already informed the ship owner that their insurance cover ceased automatically in view of the nature of the voyage," the company told CNN on Monday.

Femco declined to comment to CNN on Tuesday.

The Alaed was proceeding southwest at a speed of 12 knots and was some 40 miles off the Scottish port of Thurso at 9 a.m. ET Monday. The data showed that it left Kaliningrad 10 days ago with a final destination of Vladivostok on July 24.

On Friday, U.S. officials said they were tracking a Russian military cargo ship, the Nikolay Filchenov, also thought to be bound for Syria. U.S. intelligence believes the Russians are sending the ship to help fortify a Russian naval base in Syria as the situation in the country continues to spiral out of control, Pentagon officials told CNN on Friday.

RIA Novosti, Russia's state-run news agency, denied the report Monday, citing a source in the Black Sea Fleet who said the Nikolay Filchenov remained docked at its base in Sevastopol.

Syria has been engulfed in widespread unrest for more than 15 months. Thousands have died after a crackdown by the government of President Bashar al-Assad on peaceful protesters stoked an anti-regime uprising.

Hague said that efforts to deal with the "dire" situation have been focused on a "peaceful political transition in Syria and to a cessation of violence."

"At no stage have we been advocating a military intervention, but we do recognize the situation is so grave and deteriorating so quickly and such crimes are being committed, we cannot take any options off the table at the moment."

Opinion: Why Putin can't be forced to deal

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Syrian crisis
updated 8:43 AM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
Jihadists have kidnapped over 140 Kurdish boys to "brainwash" them. But a few boys made a daring escape.
updated 8:48 AM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
Reports that Syrian warplanes carried out a cross-border attack on Iraqi towns is further evidence of the blurring of the two countries' borders.
updated 5:33 PM EDT, Tue June 24, 2014
CNN's Atika Shubert speaks to a father whose teenage son joined the Jihad movement in Syria.
updated 7:41 AM EDT, Mon June 23, 2014
At the start of Syria's civil unrest, Omar would rally against the government alongside his schoolmates, later taking to the streets in his hometown of Salqin.
updated 5:17 PM EDT, Mon June 23, 2014
Atika Shubert looks at the rise of European jihadists traveling to Syria and whether they soon could join ISIS in Iraq.
updated 10:53 AM EDT, Mon June 23, 2014
The final stockpile of Syria's chemical weapons has been shipped out of the country, according to the OPCW, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
updated 4:25 PM EDT, Wed June 25, 2014
The US isn't doing airstrikes in Iraq. Is there a vacuum for Syria and Iran to step in? CNN's Fareed Zakaria weighs in.
updated 4:04 AM EDT, Tue June 10, 2014
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh reports on Syrian rebels using underground explosions against the better-equipped regime.
updated 7:51 AM EDT, Mon June 9, 2014
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh returns to the besieged rebel areas of Aleppo, a pale skeleton of a city that has had the life bombed out of it.
updated 7:51 AM EDT, Mon June 2, 2014
Syria may be embroiled in a brutal three-year civil war, but that's not stopping the government from holding presidential elections.
updated 7:23 AM EDT, Tue June 3, 2014
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh meets an ISIS defector in hiding and gets a rare look into the group's recruitment process.
updated 12:10 PM EDT, Thu June 5, 2014
Over a thousand Syrian refugees have turned an abandoned shopping mall in Lebanon into makeshift living quarters.
updated 5:19 PM EDT, Wed May 28, 2014
What caught our experts' ears was as much about what he didn't address as much as what he did.
updated 6:19 AM EDT, Tue May 20, 2014
The three-year war in Syria has claimed 162,402 lives, an opposition group said Monday, as the raging conflict shows no signs of abating.
updated 9:41 PM EDT, Fri May 30, 2014
Official: The U.S. believes a jihadi featured in a suicide bombing video in Syria is Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha who grew up in Florida.
updated 10:37 AM EDT, Tue May 20, 2014
For the first time, Britain has convicted someone of a terrorism offense related to the Syrian civil war.
ADVERTISEMENT