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Russia to Arm Syria, Despite Israel's Objection

Russia's Foreign Minister clarifies his country intends to complete the deal to sell advanced missile systems to Syria.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 5/17/2013, 6:04 AM

PM Netanyahu and Russian President Putin
PM Netanyahu and Russian President Putin
Reuters

Russia clarified on Thursday that it would go ahead with selling S-300 advanced missile systems to Syria, despite a request by Israel to cancel the deal.

Speaking to the Lebanese-based Al-Mayadeen television, which is close to the Hizbullah terror group, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Russia is “committed to the agreements” signed with Syria regarding the advanced missiles and will “fully carry them out.”

As he has said previously, Lavrov reiterated that Russia does not intend to sign new agreements with Syria for the sale of weapons, but explained that since the S-300 deal was signed before the outbreak of the civil war in Syria, Russia intends to carry it out as planned.

"We have no intention of breaking international law," Lavrov explained. "However, we do not want our reputation as reliable suppliers of weapons to be affected."

Lavrov’s remarks came just two days after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and spoke to him about the deal.

Following their meeting, Netanyahu and Putin spoke to the press, but Netanyahu did not indicate whether he succeeded in convincing Putin to halt arms supplies to Syria or whether the two leaders reached any firm agreements.

Speaking to reporters, Netanyahu stressed that his country's task was to "defend its citizens."

"Together we are trying to find ways to strengthen stability and security, we have a remarkable opportunity to directly speak with each other," the Israeli premier was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.

An Israeli official told Channel 2 News on Thursday that Netanyahu made it clear to Putin that Israel views the sale of advanced systems to Syria as a “status quo changer” and tried to get him to intervene and halt the deal.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Israel had warned the United States that Russia plans to sell these advanced weapons to Syria, and that Netanyahu spoke with U.S. President Barack Obama to make him aware of the deal.

Meanwhile, the London-based Arabic-language Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper reported Tuesday that advanced Russian missile launchers have already been transferred to President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

According to the report, 200 launchers for advanced anti-aircraft S-300 missiles are already in Syrian hands, and Syrian experts have been fully trained to use the launchers and no longer need Russian supervision.