Defiant Syrian President Bashar al-Assad says he will go ahead with deal for Russian S-300 missiles



The transfer of advanced long-range missiles to Syria threatens Israel and puts the stability of the entire region at risk, the United States warned yesterday, urging Russia not to go ahead with the controversial sale.

In an interview on the Lebanese television station Al Manar on Thursday night, a defiant Bashar al-Assad said he would fulfil all existing weapons contracts signed with the Russians. As Israeli officials expressed concern over the contract for S-300 missiles, the Syrian President threatened to retaliate “immediately” to any attack.

The missiles have a striking distance of around 130 miles, which would give Damascus the ability to hit the Israeli city of Tel Aviv. Israeli officials have said they will act to make sure the S-300 missile system, one of the most advanced surface-to-air defence missile systems in the world, does not become operational.

The Russians have said publicly that they will push forward with the sale, even as Moscow and Washington scramble to try and organise peace talks between the regime and the opposition this month.

“It is not helpful to have the S-300 transferred to the region while we are trying to organise this peace (conference) and create peace,” US Secretary of State John Kerry said at a joint press conference in Washington with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle. “The weaponry that is being provided to Assad whether it is an old contract or not, has a profoundly negative impact on the balance of interests and the stability of the region and it does put Israel at risk.”

In his interview on Thursday Mr Assad hinted that Syria may have received the first shipment of S-300s, but reports in the Russian media raised doubts. Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted an unnamed source in arms exports as saying that if the delivery took place, it would be in the Autumn at the earliest. However, the news agency reported that a contract for a batch of 10 MiG-29 fighter jets is currently being negotiated by a visiting Syrian delegation.

The surface-to-air missile system is particularly controversial as it would give Mr Assad the ability to fend off airstrikes from Israel, and impede any potential no-fly zone. Israel has carried out raids on Syrian territory on several occasions in the past few months amid concerns that “game changing” weapons would be passed to Israel’s long standing enemy Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shia movement which is backing Mr Assad’s forces in battle.

Hezbollah has been leading the siege on the strategic border town of Qusayr, which lies not far from the Lebanon-Syria border. In another blow to the prospect of peace talks the Syrian National Coalition announced in Istanbul that it would only attend the US and Russian-backed talks in Geneva if Hezbollah militants supported by Iran end their assault on the Syrian people.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksNow available in paperback
  • Get to the point
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Experienced Bookkeeper - German Speaking - Part Time

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm of accountants based ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a financial services c...

Ashdown Group: Field Service Engineer

£30000 - £32000 per annum + car allowance and on call: Ashdown Group: A succes...

Recruitment Genius: Sales & Marketing Co-Ordinator

£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Well established small company ...

Day In a Page

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk
Nepal earthquake: One man's desperate escape from Everest base camp after the disaster

Escape from Everest base camp

Nick Talbot was sitting in his tent when the tsunami of snow and rock hit. He was lucky to live, unlike his climbing partner just feet away...
Adopting high fibre diet could dramatically cut risk of bowel cancer, says study

What happened when 20 Americans swapped diets with 20 Africans?

Innovative study in the US produces remarkable results
Blake Lively and 'The Age of Adaline': Gossip Girl comes
of age

Gossip girl comes of age

Blake Lively is best known for playing an affluent teenager. Her role as a woman who is trapped forever at 29 is a greater challenge
Goat cuisine: Kid meat is coming to Ocado

Goat cuisine

It's loved by chefs, ethical, low in fat and delicious. So, will kid meat give lamb a run for its money?
14 best coat hooks

Hang on: 14 best coat hooks

Set the tone for the rest of your house with a stylish and functional coat rack in the hallway
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?