Russia downplays prospect of Syria missile deal to calm Israel

Earlier this week, Syrian president said missiles in his country could offset US-Poland missile pact.

By , Correspondent

Moscow is downplaying the possibility of an arms deal to put Russian missiles on Syrian soil, in response to Israeli concerns over the destabilizing effect such a sale would have on the Middle East. The Los Angeles Times reports that the specter of Russian missile sales to Syria raised a "mini-storm of concern" in Israel, though Russian officials indicated a sale was far from imminent.

Moscow's comments come after Syrian President Bashir Assad, ahead of a diplomatic summit in Russia, expressed his country's continued interest in purchasing Russian weapons, according to Haaretz.

Mr. Assad also said that Syria supported Russia in its recent war in Georgia, which was the flashpoint for the current tensions between Moscow and Washington.

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The Jerusalem Post reports that diplomatic relations between Russia and Israel also have largely been unaffected by the potential arms deal. Nonetheless, the Post writes, at least some Israeli officials remain concerned, despite Mr. Lavrov's statement that Russia would only consider selling Syria "defensive" weapons.

But Russia may still hesitate to offend Israel by selling weapons to Syria, reports the Financial Times. Earlier this year at Russia's request, Israel declined to sell armored tanks to Georgia, and Russia may feel that it should respond in kind, Pavel Felgenhauer, a Russian defence analyst, told the Times. "Israel did us a favour so I would be surprised if Assad got what he wanted."

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