Syrian President Bashar al-Assad says the conflict in the Caucasus underlines the need for Russia and Syria to expand military ties.
In an interview with Kommersant, President al-Assad said Damascus is prepared to ‘speed up’ defense cooperation with Moscow.
“I think that everyone in Russia and in the world is now aware of Israel’s role and its military consultants in the Georgian crisis,” said President al-Assad, who will meet his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, on Thursday.
Such deals would irk Washington and Tel Aviv, which have long asked Moscow not to sell weapons to countries that share borders with the occupied territories.
Reports, however, indicate that Russia is eager to revive its defense ties with Syria following the South Ossetian conflict, in which Georgia used Israeli-supplied equipment.
An Israeli website reported that Moscow plans to deploy advanced missile systems – including the S-300 air-missile defense system as well as the nuclear-capable Iskander missiles – in Syria in the near future.
A Russian official was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying that a number of deals involving anti-aircraft and anti-tank missile systems are being prepared by Russia and Syria.
“Damascus is Moscow’s long-standing partner in military cooperation and we are expecting to reach an agreement in principle on new weapons deals,” said the source.
The official added that the Syrians are interested in acquiring Russia’s Pantsyr-S1 Air Defense Missile systems, BUK-M1 surface-to-air medium-range missile system, military aircraft, and other hardware.
Russia has condemned both Israel and the US for their role in arming the Georgian military with sophisticated weapons.
Israel claims it has not directly equipped or trained the Georgian military, and private Israeli firms – with the defense ministry’s approval- are responsible for such dealings.
Slideshow of some of the missile systems Syria might consider buying.