Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, on Monday defended his country’s decision to lift a ban on the delivery of S-300 anti-missile rocket systems to Iran, saying the S-300 system does not pose a threat to Israel.
Commenting on the decision, Lavrov was quoted by Russia Today as saying that the embargo on S-300 deliveries was no longer necessary, due to the progress in Iran’s nuclear talks made in Lausanne on April 2.
During the talks in Switzerland, the sides have made “substantial progress in resolving the Iranian nuclear program,” Lavrov said, adding, “The political framework of the final deal agreed upon was highly praised by the international community.”
“We believe that at this stage there is no longer need for this kind of embargo - from the Russian side it was unilateral and voluntary,” he added, according to Russia Today.
Lavrov said that the S-300 is an air defense missile system, which is of a purely defensive nature. It is not designed for attacks and “will not put at risk the security of any state in the region, including Israel," he stressed.
Earlier Monday, Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz denounced Russia's decision to lift the ban, saying it was proof of Tehran's newfound "legitimacy" following nuclear talks.
"At a time when Iran denies clause after clause of the agreement declared last week, the international community has already begun easing its sanctions," Steinitz said in a statement.
"This is a direct result of the legitimacy that Iran is receiving from the nuclear deal that is being prepared, and proof that the Iranian economic growth which follows the lifting of sanctions will be exploited for arming itself and not for the welfare of the Iranian people."
The S-300 is a long range surface-to-air missile – manufactured by the Russian firm Almaz – designed to intercept aircraft and cruise missiles, and its most advanced models can also target ballistic missiles.
In 2010, Russia's then-president Dmitry Medvedev cancelled the deal, after the United States and Israel applied strong pressure on him. Both countries worry that the S-300 would make Iran less vulnerable to attack by either one of them, and motivate Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.
The Commander of Iran's Air Defense Forces, Farzad Ismail, said in early 2014 that the missile "Bawer" (Faith) made in Iran, has reached the operational phase of development, and that it features more advanced capabilities than the S-300 Russian-made missile.