WASHINGTON, May 10 (RIA Novosti) – US officials on Thursday reiterated their call to Moscow to cut off arms sales to Syria, hours after media reports suggested that Russia was ready to sell advanced ground-to-air missile systems to the country.
The Wall Street Journal reported earlier in the day that Israel had informed the United States about the suspected sale of Russia’s S-300 missile batteries to the government of President Bashar al-Assad. According to the information the Israelis provided in recent days, Syria has been making payments on a 2010 agreement with Moscow to buy six launchers and 144 operational missiles for $900 million.
Commenting on the media reports, US Secretary of State John Kerry said earlier in the day that “the missiles are potentially destabilizing with respect to the state of Israel.”
“I think we have made it crystal clear that we would prefer that Russia is not supplying assistance,” Kerry said told reporters after a meeting with Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino.
During Kerry’s visit to Russia earlier this week, an agreement was reached between Moscow and Washington to convene international talks on Syria that will include both representatives of the Syrian government and opposition. The conference, expected to be arranged by the end of this month, will be aimed at facilitating a solution to the Syrian crisis through political dialog.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said that “the provision of additional weapons to the regime will not hasten a political solution.”
“I would say that we have consistently called on Russia to cut off the Assad regime’s supply of Russian weapons, including air defense systems that are destabilizing to the region,” he said.
The sale of Russian weapons to Syrian President Bashar al-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.
Russia, however, has insisted 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 which can be used to kill civilians.