Russia reserves the right to provide Syria with state-of-the art air defense missiles, seeing it as a key deterrent against foreign intervention in the country, a top Russian official said Tuesday.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov wouldn't say whether Russia has shipped any of the long-range S-300 air defense missile systems, but added that Moscow isn't going to abandon the deal despite strong Western and Israeli criticism.
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"We understand the concerns and signals sent to us from different capitals, we realize that many of our partners are concerned about the issue," Ryabkov said, adding that "we have no reason to revise our stance."
"We believe that such steps to a large extent help restrain some `hot heads' considering a scenario to give an international dimension to this conflict," he said.
Russia has been the key ally of the Syrian regime, protecting it from the United Nations sanctions and providing it with weapons despite the civil war there that has claimed over 70,000 lives.
Moscow, however, so far has refrained from providing Damascus with the S-300s, a powerful weapon that has a range of up to 200 kilometers (125 miles) and the capability to track down and strike multiple targets simultaneously. The weapon would mean a quantum leap in Syria's air defense capability,
including against neighboring countries that oppose Assad's regime.
Ryabkov's statement comes a day after European Union's decision to lift an arms embargo to Syrian opposition. He criticized the EU decision, saying it would help "fuel" the conflict and defended the S-300 deal, saying the air defense weapons can't be used in the civil war against the opposition, which doesn't have aircraft.
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