Russia is not in talks with the Syria's Bashar al-Assad about supplying advanced S-300 ground-to-air missiles and does not think they are needed, the Izvestia daily cited a top Kremlin aide as saying on Friday.
The comments, by Vladimir Kozhin, an aide to President Vladimir Putin who oversees Russian military assistance to other countries, follow a visit to Moscow by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week, who has been lobbying Putin hard not to transfer the missiles.
"For now, we're not talking about any deliveries of new modern [air defense] systems," Izvestia cited Kozhin as saying when asked about the possibility of supplying Syria with S-300s. The Syrian regime forces already had "everything it needed," Kozhin added.
Russia last month hinted it would supply the weapons to Bashar al-Assad, over Israeli objections, after Western military strikes on Syria. "Deliveries [of the S-300s] were never announced as such," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call, when asked about the matter. "But we did say after the [Western] strikes [on Syria] that of course Russia reserved the right to do anything it considered necessary." Transferring upgraded air-defense systems to Syria could be seen as an escalation by neighboring Israel and raises the risk of Israeli attacks. Israel has made repeated efforts to persuade Moscow not to sell the S-300s to Syria, as it fears this would hinder its aerial capabilities against arms shipments to Iranian-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah. Israel has carried out scores of air strikes against suspected shipments.
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