MOSCOW, May 28 (RIA Novosti) – Russia’s delivery of S-300 air defense systems to Syria is a restraining factor against possible foreign interference in the Syrian conflict, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Tuesday.
“We believe such steps are to a great extent restraining some ‘hot heads’ from considering scenarios in which the conflict may assume an international scale with the participation of outside forces,” Ryabkov said.
He refused to say whether the Russian-made air defense systems had been already delivered to Syria.
“I can neither confirm, nor deny in what stage these deliveries are at,” Ryabkov said. “We understand all the concerns and signals sent to us from various states. We see that this issue worries many of our partners. We have no reasons to reconsider our position in this sphere.”
The sale of Russian weapons to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime has been a source of bilateral tension between Moscow and Washington, with US officials accusing Russia of arming a regime the United States says is killing its own citizens in Syria’s raging civil war.
Last week US Secretary of State John Kerry said that the sale by Russia of S-300 air defense systems to Syria would be “destabilizing” for the region.
The S-300-P surface-to-air missile system
Ryabkov reiterated that Russia is merely honoring previously-concluded agreements with Damascus by supplying S-300 systems to Syria. He said the systems are solely for defense purposes against airborne threats and cannot be used by the government forces against civilians.
Russia insists that the deliveries are legal under international law and that it is not supplying Syria, the largest importer of Russian arms in the Middle East, with offensive weapons.
S-300 is widely acknowledged by defense analysts as one of the world’s most advanced air defense systems. An S-300 battery would “provide coverage of much of northern and central Israel if deployed in the south west of Syria for targets other than those at low altitude,” Douglas Barrie, an air warfare analyst with the London-based International Institute of Strategic Studies, told RIA Novosti earlier this month.