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No S-300 supplies planned, Russia finalizes standing Syrian weapons contracts - Lavrov

Published time: May 10, 2013 14:02
Edited time: May 11, 2013 06:46
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (RIA Novosti/Sergey Pyatakov)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (RIA Novosti/Sergey Pyatakov)

Russia is not planning to supply Syria with any weapons beyond the current contracts that are nearing completion, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said refuting speculations that Moscow was going to sell S-300 air defense systems to Damascus.

“Russia does not plan to sell,” Lavrov told reporters on being asked on S-300 air defense systems rumors. He stressed that Russia has only been fulfilling contracts that have already been signed with Syria for defensive weapons.

On Thursday the White House urged Russia not to sell weapons to Syria, saying that such assistance to Damascus is "particularly destabilizing to the region."

I think we’ve made it crystal clear we would prefer that Russia was not supplying assistance ” to the Syrian regime in its war against opposition forces, US Secretary of State John Kerry said in Rome Thursday.

The warning from the US came a day after the Wall Street Journal reported that Israel had informed the Obama administration about Moscow’s alleged plans to transfer S-300 missile batteries to Syrian security forces, possibly as early as this summer.

Kerry did not directly respond to the report, but said the United States has repeatedly opposed arms deals in the past.

He reiterated the US position against transfers of missile systems to Syria because of the possible threat to Israel.

S-300 air defense system (RIA Novosti / Valeriy Melnikov)

According to the report, Israel informed the US that Syria made payments on a 2010 deal to buy four batteries from Russia for $900 million. That included six launchers and 144 missiles, each with a range of 125 miles (200 kilometers).

Despite repeated accusations it has tried to deliver military equipment to Syria, Moscow mantains that it is only fulfilling contracts that are already signed, which are for defensive weapons.

Speaking to German media in Hannover in April, Russian President Vladimir Putin responded to the allegations, saying that Russia only “supplies the legitimate regime... This is not prohibited by international law.”

Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov has also insisted that Russia has no plans to sign any further military contracts with Syria, and now only honors old contracts, many of which date back to the Soviet era.

Following an incident in which a Russian ship was intercepted carrying helicopters for Damascus, then-US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton slammed Russia for sending “combat” helicopters to the Syrian government, but later the statement was retracted, with the US acknowledging they were “old helicopters” refurbished under previous contracts.

Russia and the US have in a deadlock over the Syrian conflict and thus far failed to agree on an approach to resolve the two-year long crisis in the war-torn country. While Washington insists that Assad and his regime must step down, Moscow maintains that only the Syrian people should decide and foreign interference should not be the determining factor. Russia insists that only direct talks between parties involved in the conflict – the government and the opposition – can bring an end to the fighting, which according to the UN has claimed lives of more than 70,000 people.

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