Netanyahu urges Putin not to supply air defence system to Syria
Israeli PM makes urgent plea to Russian president to cancel plans to aid Syria
Russian president Vladimir Putin and Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu attend a news conference at the Bocharov Ruchei state residence in Sochi yesterday. Phtotgraph: Maxim Shipenkov/Reuters
Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu flew to the Black Sea resort of Sochi yesterday to make an urgent plea to Russian president Vladimir Putin to cancel plans to provide Syria with a state-of-the-art air defence system.
The visit came 10 days after Israeli jets reportedly carried out two raids close to Damascus, destroying Iran-manufactured missiles destined for Hizbullah in Lebanon.
Russia continues to back the regime of Syrian president Bashar el-Assad but so far has refrained from providing Damascus with the S300 air defence system. With a range of up to 200km (125 miles), it can intercept fighter jets and cruise missiles and simultaneously strike multiple targets.
According to unconfirmed reports, Russian delivery of four S300 batteries to Syria with 144 missiles, is imminent. Syria is paying almost €700 million for the systems. They would jeopardise the ability of Israel, or other states, to launch air strikes against Syria. In brief remarks to reporters, neither leader specifically mentioned the S300 system.
Mr Putin said the only way to resolve the Syrian crisis was by political solution. “Only a quick cessation of hostilities and a political settlement can prevent a negative scenario. At this sensitive moment, it’s particularly important to avoid any action that could destabilise the situation.”
Mr Netanyahu stressed the need for action to enhance regional security. “The region around us is very unstable and explosive, and therefore I am glad for the opportunity to examine together new ways to stabilise the area and bring security and stability,” he said.
Some experts speculated that Moscow does not plan to deliver the S300s, and Mr Putin was merely using the issue to gain concessions from the US over safeguarding Russian interests in Syria.