Russia-Syria arms deal irks Israel

Moscow's ME sales have long concerned J'lem, official tells 'Post.'

May 16, 2010 03:04
1 minute read.
Medvedev and Assad shake hands upon their arrival

Assad Medvedev 311. (photo credit: AP)

Israel viewed with concern on Saturday reports that Russia has signed contracts to deliver fighter jets, air defense systems and armored vehicles to Syria.

Mikhail Dmitriyev, head of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, said Russia would sell MiG-29 fighter jets, Pantsyr short-range air defense systems and armored vehicles. He didn’t give any numbers, or provide any further details.

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The report came after a visit by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to Damascus last week. During that visit, Medvedev met with Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal.

Friday’s statement about the arms sales was carried by Russian news agencies and confirmed earlier media reports.

Previous Russian sales of advanced anti-tank missiles and other weapons to Syria have irked Israel, which said some ended up with Hizbullah.

Israel and Russia have already been at odds in recent years over Moscow’s pledge to provide Iran with the advanced S-300 air defense system.

Though the order was placed in 2007, none of the systems have been delivered, allegedly due to technical glitches – though many believe the delay stems from international opposition to the sale.

Earlier last week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov rebuffed a request by the US not to deliver the weapons to Iran.

During a visit to Moscow in February, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu discussed Russian weapons sales with Medvedev.

An Israeli official told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday that the government had long been concerned by Russian sales of weapons in the region.

“We have raised concerns with the Russians as to their weapons sales to the region, at the highest level,” the official said. “We have seen Russian weapons that have been given and sold to different countries with terrorist groups.”

The official added that during the Second Lebanon War in 2006, Hizbullah was found to have Russian weapons.

“We think it is a problem when states that oppose peace and reconciliation and are part of the extremist axis receive military support” from countries such as Russia, the official said.

AP contributed to this report.

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