Defense Minister Lobbies Moscow to Stop Arms Sales

Barak meets with Russian Prime Minister Putin at his summer home to discuss security cooperation.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak met yesterday in Russia with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and with the country's defense minister, Anatoly Serdyukov, asking both to halt the sale of missiles to Iran and Syria.

Barak's meeting with the Russian prime minister took place at Putin's summer home in Sochi. Following that meeting, a statement said the two discussed the entire range of security and diplomatic issues, but no details were provided.

The Putin meeting was preceded by talks in Moscow between Barak and the Russian defense minister at which the two signed an agreement that lays the groundwork for Russian-Israeli military cooperation for the first time. The agreement provides for joint weapon development and exchange of information on terrorism issues.

"It's very important to us that in the transition to a new image, the Russian armed forces use the experience the Israeli armed forces have and the work they have done," Serdyukov said after the meeting.

Among other items, Russia is interested in purchasing Israeli-made unmanned aircraft.

According to defense sources, Barak asked his Russian hosts not to sell Iran S-300 anti-aircraft missiles, which could greatly enhance the Iranians' aerial defense capabilities and complicate a possible attack on Tehran's nuclear facilities.

Stopping Syria

Israel is also trying to convince Russia not to sell Syria P-800 Yakhont supersonic naval cruise missiles, which are capable of precisely targeting ships.

The presence of the missiles in Syrian hands poses a threat that Syria would transfer them to Hezbollah, which could limit the Israel Navy's range off the Lebanese coast.

Barak also spoke to his Russian hosts about Israel's concern over a rising nuclear threat from Iran and the need for stronger sanctions against Tehran. "Russia is a central power in the world, and a very dominant and influential force in the Middle East," Barak said after the meeting with Serdyukov.