Russian foreign minister denies new weapons sales to Syria


Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov addresses a joint press conference in Warsaw on Friday. (WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
May 10, 2013

Russia’s foreign minister denied Friday that Moscow intends to sign any new contracts to sell surface-to-air missiles to Syria, although he said old contracts are being honored.

“Russia does not plan to sell,” Sergei Lavrov said at a news conference in Warsaw, according to the Interfax news agency. “Russia has sold long ago and delivered hardware, which are air defense systems, under earlier contracts.”

Lavrov’s comments, the first by a Russian official since the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday on the possibility Moscow would sell a missile defense system to Syria, left unclear whether Syria would come into possession of the missile defense system under an earlier contract.

At issue is the S-300 missile defense system, which if acquired by Syria would make it difficult for other countries to create a no-fly zone over the country to help anti-government forces fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Although Lavrov was asked specifically about the S-300 at the Warsaw news conference, his answer did not make clear whether the existing contract was for that system or something different.

He said Russia had contracted for a system that would allow Syria “to protect itself from air strikes.”

Lavrov was in Warsaw for a meeting with his counterparts from Poland and Germany.

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