Israel speaks with Russia amid reports of S-300

Steinitz meets Russian Ambassador to Israel, raises issue of S-300 missiles reportedly delivered from Moscow.

Netanyahu and Putin go to shake hands, 390 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Netanyahu and Putin go to shake hands, 390
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel spoke with Russia on Thursday morning amidst reports that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces had received a shipment of S-300 missiles from Moscow.
Israel has yet to confirm the arrival of the missiles, which have a 200-kilometer range with the capacity to hit planes in northern Israel. It would create a no-fly zone that would make it impossible for the Israeli air-force to operate along the Syrian and Lebanese border, precisely at a moment when both countries are move volatile.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had personally asked Russian President Vladamir Putin not to deliver the missiles when he visited Moscow earlier this month.
On Thursday morning Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz held a pre-arranged meeting with Russian Ambassador to Israel Sergey Yakovlev and raised the issue of the S-300 missiles.
Russia has maintained that the missiles are defensive and are needed by Assad’s forces in their battle against rebel groups in that country.
Steinitz on Wednesday said that the missiles could also be used as offensive weapons.
At the end Steinitz’s meeting with Yakovlev, Steinitz's office said, that the men discussed bilateral and strategic issues in the region. They agreed that Israel and Russia would “maintain an ongoing dialogue and cooperate,” Steinitz’s office said.
Assad announced that the missiles had arrived, just four days after the European Union agreed to lift its arm embargo to Syrian rebel forces.
Earlier in the day, Netanyahu spoke of the dangers facing Israel from missile attacks from the Syrian, Lebanese and Gaza borders when he attended a meeting of the Emergency Economy Committee, where they discussed Tuesday’s national emergency drill.
"We are deep in the era of missiles that are aimed at civilian population areas,” Netanyahu said.
“We must prepare defensively and offensively for the new era of warfare. The State of Israel is the most threatened state in the world. Around us are tens of thousands of missiles and rockets that could hit our home front,” Netanyahu said.
Russia’s sale of the S-300 miisiles has not stopped it from working with the United States to hold an international peace conference in Geneva thatwould include representatives from Assad’s government and the rebel forces.
"Preparations for the international conference on Syria will be discussed" at the three-way meeting in Geneva on June 5 between Russian, US and United nations officials, Interfax quoted the unidentified Russian foreign ministry source as saying.
The official said US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman and UN Under Secretary General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman would attend the June 5 meeting. State-run news agency RIA said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov would also take part.
Rebel forces are threatening to boycott the conference. No date has been set for the Geneva talks.
Reuters contributed to this report.