Russia 'has not yet delivered' S-300 missiles to Syria


YEKATERINBURG, Russia : Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday Moscow had not yet delivered its sophisticated S-300 missiles to the Damascus regime despite hints from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that such shipments had already been made.

“The contract was signed several years ago. It has not been realised yet,”  Putin said at a joint press conference with EU leaders. “We do not want to  upset the balance in the region.”   

The Russian leader also warned that any foreign military intervention in  the 26-month crisis would fail.   

“We once again underscored that any attempts to influence the situation  through force and direct military intervention are doomed to failure,” Putin  said.   

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu paid a special visit to Russia  last month to convince Moscow not to make the shipments.   

Assad’s suggestion in an interview last week that one of Russia’s most  advanced surface-to-air missiles had been delivered to the Damascus regime  provoked condemnation from Western nations and fresh expressions of concern  from Israel.   

The S-300s could not only theoretically take out Israeli jets that have  already made bombing raids over Syria but also complicate any military support  missions that Western or regional powers intended to run in the region.   

Putin agreed that the S-300 was “one of the best — if not the best — air  defence systems in the world.”   

“The best, probably,” Putin added.   

The Syrian crisis and the European Union’s decision to lift its arms  embargo on Assad’s foes dominated the Russia-EU summit that had otherwise been  devoted to trade issues.   

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said that Brussels expressed  its full support for a joint Russia-US initiative for a peace conference  involving both Assad’s camp and the opposition to be held as soon as possible.   

“What is happening in Syria today is a stain on humankind’s conscience,”  added European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso. -- AFP

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