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Russian Firms Maintain Syrian Support in Paris

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives at Belfast International Airport, in Northern Ireland, on Monday, June 17, 2013.

PARIS -- Russia's defense companies will continue selling weapons to the Syrian government until the international community issues sanctions forcing them to stop, said Vladimir Artyakov, head of the delegation of the Russian Technologies State Corporation.

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and his military have used these weapons, including attack helicopters, in a civil war that has killed tens of thousands of civilians. President Obama announced last week the U.S. will supply weapons to the rebels fighting the Assad regime after the U.S. confirmed evidence that Assad used chemical weapons.

The U.S. plans to ship automatic weapons, rocket propelled grenades and light mortars through the borders of Jordan and Turkey to the groups of rebels that have been fighting Assad for the past two years.

Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin were scheduled to meet Monday at the G-8 Summit in Northern Ireland to discuss the war in Syria. Their meeting will come after Putin has said he sees no reason to stop sending weapons to Assad and warned the U.S. against providing weapons to the rebels.

The showdown between the U.S. and Russian leaders come as Russian defense companies have played a prominent role here at the Paris Air Show. Russian aircraft have gained most of the attention here as the U.S. chose not to send their aircraft to perform at the glitzy air show at a time when Defense Department civilian employees have been forced to take furloughs because of sequestration.

The Su-35 fighter has been the star of the show thus far. Russia's Yak-130 light attack aircraft and the KA-52 attack helicopter are also performing. It's the first time in 14 years that Russian fighters will be displayed at Paris after a Su-30 fighter jet crashed at the show in 1999.

However, questions remain about the international perception of Russian defense companies like Rosoboronexport, Russian Helicopters and Kamaz, which are looking to expand their global market, but still intend to sell weapons to Syria.

Artyakov heads Rostech, a government owned corporation that includes almost all of Russia's major defense firms. Military.com asked him if the companies he oversees plan to continue to do business with Assad.

"Without international sanctions we are obligated to the contracts we have," Artyakov said through a translator. "Right now we don't have a reason to stop doing business with Syria."

The head of the state corporation pointed to the comments that Putin made earlier saying that Russia does not plan to end its support of its ally, Syria. Artyakov said that with contracts in place with Syria, it would be wrong to stop delivering the weapons the Assad regime has ordered.

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Syria Russia Paris Air Show Michael Hoffman
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