20 Jun 2012

Russian 'weapons ship' turns back

6:15 am on 20 June 2012

A cargo ship believed to be carrying weapons to Syria has apparently turned back towards Russia, Britain's parliament has been told.

The Curacao-flagged cargo ship Alaed was last seen off the north-west coast of Scotland this week.

It was believed to be carrying Russian weaponry to Syria, according to London-based ship insurer Standard Club which said it had withdrawn coverage for the vessel.

Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague told parliament the vessel had apparently turned back towards Russia and again called for a halt to arms shipments to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad.

Britain's Foreign Office had said earlier it was aware of a consignment of refurbished Russian-made attack helicopters heading for Syria but did not say if it was referring to the same vessel, Reuters reports.

Russia has faced increasing Western criticism over arms supplies to Syria, where the United Nations says government forces have killed more than 10,000 people in a crackdown.

The ship's insurer said it had been contacted and made aware of allegations that the Alaed was carrying munitions destined for Syria and had told the owner that their insurance cover ceased automatically.

Insurers would be obliged to withdraw coverage for any shipments violating European Union sanctions, including an arms embargo on Syria. Without insurance, the vessel could be forced either to dock at a port, drop its run to Syria or find a provider outside the European Union.

Moscow-based Russian ship management and operator group Femco, which operating the Alaed, had not commented to Reuters.