Russia: We will provide Syria with advanced missiles, despite Israel, U.S. protests
Remark by Russia defense minster comes amid reports that Israeli officials, including PM Netanyahu and Defense Minister Barak, had reportedly warned arms could be used by Hezbollah.
Russia plans to go ahead with its sale of advance anti-ship rockets, state news agency RIA Novosti quoted Russian Defense Minster Anatoly Serdyukov as saying on Friday, despite recent attempts by U.S. and Israeli officials to thwart the planned deal.
The deal involves the sale of advanced P-800 Yakhont supersonic cruise missiles to the Syrian military, weaponry which Israel considers as capable of posing significant danger to its navy vessels in the Mediterranean Sea.
Last month, Haaretz reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had tried to sway his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, from completing the deal, reportedly saying the missiles could be transferred to Hezbollah and used against IDF troops, as was the case in the Second Lebanon War.
Speaking Friday, however, the Russian defense minister indicated that Russia would indeed go forward with the 2007 contract, saying that "the issue of selling the missiles to Syria was raised during the talks with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates... Undoubtedly, it [the contract] would be fulfilled by the Russian side."
Responding to the Haaretz report last month, Sergei Prikhodko, a senior adviser to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, told RIA Novosti that Moscow would fulfill all agreements it had made with foreign countries and would not halt the deal.
"Lately, some Israeli media outlets have been actively disseminating information distorting Russia's position on the implementation of its obligations to Syria, including in the sphere of military and technical cooperation," Prikhodko said. "I would like to stress that the Russian Federation honors all the agreements that were previously signed between Russia and Syria."
In his talks with Putin last month, Netanyahu indicated Syria's transfer of advanced Russian anti-tank missiles to Hezbollah during the 2006 war, also mentioning the incident in which Syrian-acquired Chinese-made C-802 anti-shipping missiles were used by Hezbollah to target an Israeli destroyer.
Earlier this month, Defense Minister Ehud Barak made another reported attempt to stop the planned arms deal in conversations with both Putin and the Russian defense minister during his official visit to Russia.