Russia to supply Syria with cruise missiles: minister
Russian Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov confirmed in Washington that Russia would supply Syria with P-800 Yakhont cruise missiles, Russian news agencies reported Friday.
"We will supply Yakhont to Syria, we will fulfil the contract," Serdyukov was quoted as saying by ITAR-TASS news agency in comments to Russian journalists, adding that the contract was signed in 2007.
Serdyukov was speaking in Washington during a visit to the Pentagon aimed at expanding military ties as part of the countries' much-vaunted "reset" in relations.
Russia's arms sales and possible nuclear cooperation with Syria, which has close ties to Iran, is unnerving for the United States and Israel, which fears them being transferred to the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.
Serdyukov described such fears as unjustified.
"The US and Israel ask us not to supply Syria with Yakhont. But we do not see the concerns expressed by them that these arms will fall into the hands of terrorists," he said.
The Russian defence minister also called for an end to a deadlock over a key Cold War arms treaty limiting conventional military forces of Europe. Russia abandoned it in 2007 over US plans to install a missile shield in Eastern Europe.
The Conventional Forces in Europe treaty (CFE), limits the deployment of troops and military hardware across Europe.
"Even our American partners understand that it cannot work any more in the form in which it is now," Serdyukov said, adding that the treaty "needs to be more up-to-date and match the realities of today."
NATO countries have said they will only ratify an adapted CFE treaty once Moscow lives up to a pledge made in 1999 to pull its troops out of former Soviet republics Georgia and Moldova.
"We stand by our position on the treaty and have firmly stated that we will not lift our moratorium until our conditions are accepted and we are offered options that suit us," Serdyukov said.
The issue is expected to be discussed when Russia attends talks during a NATO summit in Lisbon in November.
© 2010 AFP