Russia Brushes Off Efforts to Intercept Syrian Missile Deal

Warsaw/Moscow (Reuters) -

Russia’s foreign minister said on Friday that Moscow had no new plans to sell an advanced air defense system to Syria, but left open the possibility it could deliver such systems under an existing contract.

The Wall Street Journal this week reported that Israel had informed the United States a Russian deal was imminent to sell S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems to the government of President Bashar al-Assad. Israel itself reportedly asked Russia directly to cancel such a deal.

Asked by a journalist in the Polish capital about the reports of a missile deal, Sergei Lavrov said: “Russia is not planning to sell. Russia already sold them a long time ago. It has signed the contracts and is completing deliveries, in line with the agreed contracts, of equipment which is anti-aircraft technology.”

The question referred to S-300 systems, but in his reply the minister did not specify whether the items already being delivered were S-300 complexes or another system.

Lavrov, in Warsaw for a meeting on regional cooperation with his German and Polish counterparts, said the deliveries were in line with international law and for self-defense only.

“It is designed so that Syria, as the importer, should have the ability to protect itself from air strikes, something that is not an entirely fantastical scenario,” he told a news conference after the meeting, alluding to an Israeli air strike on Hizbullah-bound missiles near Damascus a week ago.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, standing alongside Lavrov, said there had been “intensive” discussions at his meeting with the Russian minister and Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski about arms shipments to Syria.

“It is also a controversial subject between us,” Westerwelle said through an interpreter. “We think that all arms shipments need to stop, a political solution has to be given a chance.”