Russia: Moscow-Tehran Ties Don't Harm Israel

Sergey Lavrov: Russia sells arms to Iran, but only defensive ones, not ones that could spark instability.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov declared on Friday that ties between Russia and Iran don't pose a threat to Israel, and that Russian decisions in regard to Teheran's leadership are not directed at Israel.

Lavrov's remarks came in response to a question posed by a Haaretz reporter, who asked whether Moscow plans to "play the Iran card" and torpedo Western efforts to impose sanctions on Tehran in efforts to prevent the Islamic Republic from developing nuclear weapons.

The Russian foreign minister didn't answer the question directly, but did say that Russia's decisions on the issue of Iran are not meant to harm Israel. We have good historic ties with the Iranians. "We send them weapons, but only for defensive purposes ? no weapons that would cause regional instability."

Speaking at the annual Valdai forum which brings world leaders to Moscow to discuss global diplomatic issues, Lavrov added that Russia's stance hasn't changed, and that Iran needs to abide by the guidelines set forth by the United Nations nuclear watchdog the International Atomic Energy Agency. He added that Russia was receiving positive signals on Iran's compliance with those guidelines.

Lavrov went on to say that Russian representatives have been recently invited to participate in another round of talks on Iran's disputed nuclear program in their capacity as part of the group of six major powers ? the five permanent United Nations Security Council members, Russia, China, U.S. Britain and France, as well as Germany.

Russia is known to support the notion that Iran should not be punished over its nuclear program, and it was clear from Lavrov's remarks that Russia intends to continue supporting the moderate economic sanctions currently in place against Iran.

In regard to the cooperation between Israel and Russia's neighbor Georgia, Lavrov said that the Israeli government froze its weapons shipments to the region two weeks before Georgia attempted to retake the rebel region of South Ossetia, a move that sparked a Russian invasion into Georgia, thus hinting that Israel knew in advance about the attack. The foreign minister expressed his satisfaction, however, over Israel's response, saying that he hoped Israel would not resume arming Georgia.

We saw what the Israeli weapons were ultimately used for, he said, a comment that was viewed by some as a veiled threat aimed at Jerusalem.