Published On: Wed, May 29th, 2013

Israel warns Russia over Syria arms delivery

Moshe Yaalon, Israeli defence minister

Moshe Yaalon, Israeli defence minister

Israel has said it will act if Russia delivers promised anti-aircraft missiles to its ally Syria, in an apparent allusion to another air raid on the neighbouring country.

Moshe Yaalon, Israeli defence minister, issued his warning on Tuesday shortly after a senior official in Moscow said the Russian government reserved the right to provide Syria with state-of-the-art S-300 air defence missiles “As far as we are concerned, that is a threat,” Yaalon said.

“At this stage I can’t say there is an escalation. The shipments have not been sent on their way yet. And I hope that they will not be sent”

But “if God forbid they do reach Syria, we”.

Earlier this month, Israel launched air raids inside Syria targeting what sources said were arms destined for the Lebanese Shia armed group Hezbollah, whose fighters have entered the conflict alongside the Syrian army.

The latest developments stirred tensions after the EU decided in a meeting in Brussels on Monday to lift an embargo on supplying weapons to Syria’s rebels.

Syria’s government joined its ally Russia in condemning the EU decision as an “obstruction” to peace efforts, while accusing the bloc of supporting and encouraging “terrorists”.

The US, however, said it supported the EU move as a show of “full support” for the rebels, despite its own refusal to provide arms it fears will end up in what it believes to be extremist hands in Syria.

The lifting of the embargo “sends a message to the Assad regime that support for the opposition is only going to increase”, Patrick Ventrell, US state department spokesman, said.

Russia said its planned to deliver to Damascus the S-300 missiles were part of existing contracts.

“We consider these supplies a stabilising factor,” Sergei Ryabkov, deputy foreign minister, said, adding they could act as a deterrent against foreign intervention.

Syria already possesses Russian-made air defences. The S-300s would expand Syria’s capabilities, allowing it to counter air raids launched from foreign airspace as well.

Russia has been the key ally of the Syrian regime, protecting it from any UN Security Council action despite the civil war there that has claimed over 94,000 lives.

Both Russia and Iran remain Syria’s main weapon suppliers.

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Source: Aljazeera

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