Russia will go ahead with plans to deliver S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Syria despite Western opposition and Israel saying it would “know how to act” if Syrians receive the advanced weapons system.
Moscow said that by sending in the anti-aircraft system, it would deter “hotheads” intent on intervention in the two-year-old conflict, the deputy foreign minister said on Tuesday, according to Reuters.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov also accused the European Union of “throwing fuel on the fire” by letting its own arms embargo on the Syrian opposition expire.
The comments came after Israel said it will know how to act if Russia sends the system, Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said on Tuesday.
Yaalon’s remarks appeared to contradict Israel’s air force chief, who said last week the shipment of S-300 missiles was “on its way” to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is battling a popular uprising that has turned into a civil war.
Israel is alarmed by the prospect of Russia supplying advanced weapon systems to Syria, saying such arms could end upin the hands of arch-foe Iran or the Lebanese Hezbollah group.
“I can say that the shipments are not on their way yet,”Yaalon told reporters. “I hope they will not leave, and if, God forbid, they reach Syria, we will know what to do,” he said, without disclosing how he came by the information.
Although Israel has not publicly taken sides in the Syrian conflict, Western and Israeli sources say it has launched airstrikes inside Syria to destroy weapons it believed were destined for Hezbollah guerrillas allied to Assad.
Russia’s foreign minister said on May 13 that Moscow had no new plans to sell the S-300 to Syria but left open the possibility of delivering such systems under an existing contract.
Israeli Strategic Affairs and Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz said the S-300 can reach deep into the Jewish state and threaten flights over its main commercial airport near Tel Aviv. He said he hoped Russia would cancel the deal.
“This is still unfortunately the plan, and we are very concerned,” Steinitz told reporters in Jerusalem. “This is a kind of encouragement, a kind of support for a brutal regime which is totally wrong, also from a moral point of view.”