U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (L) at the State Department in Washington, US, October 3, 2018.
(photo credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS)
WASHINGTON — Russia’s deployment of a sophisticated missile defense system in Syria amounts to a “very serious escalation” of the conflict there, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday.
Speaking with reporters in Washington, the secretary offered his gravest warning yet to Moscow after failing to dissuade his Russian counterparts from proceeding with the S-300 transfer during talks in New York last week.
US President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, warned last month that the deployment of the S-300, which targets both missiles and aircraft, would risk complicating a careful balance of air power in Syria, where warplanes fly from Russia, Israel, and the US-led coalition against Islamic State militants.
"We consider this a very serious escalation," Pompeo said. In late September, he warned the Trump administration is prepared to hold Russia "accountable" if it proceeds with the sale, but has yet to outline consequences.
Israel is concerned that the move will increase odds of direct conflict with Moscow and complicate its effort to push Iranian forces back from its border. Israeli forces have targeted Syrian government and Iranian assets both with missile attacks as well as in air raids.
Pompeo also announced the US would withdraw from a little-known 1955 agreement with Iran that on Wednesday provided the basis for an international court decision critical of its sanctions against Tehran.
Iran cited the treaty of amity in its latest case against the US at the International Court of Justice, but has also been used by the US in its charges against Tehran, including the legal case it brought against the state during the Iran hostage crisis of 1979.
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