Russia says it will press ahead with plans to sell Syria an air defence system despite western opposition.
It has also accused the European Union of “throwing fuel on the fire” by letting its arms embargo expire, saying it would complicate efforts to fix an international peace conference.
Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov defended Moscow’s decision by saying it would help deter “hotheads” who back foreign intervention.
His remarks toughened Russia’s defiance of the United States, France and Israel over the planned sale of precision S-300 missile systems. Military experts say they could significantly boost Syria’s ability to stave off outside intervention as they can intercept manned aircraft and guided missiles and their delivery would improve Assad’s government’s chances of holding out in Damascus.
But Israel is also standing firm and has issued a veiled warning of a military response.
Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said: “The shipments are not on their way yet, this I can say. I hope they will not leave and if, God forbid, they reach Syria, we will know what to do.”
In the meantime, Israel is preparing for any confrontation on land or at sea. Its biggest fear is that Russian supplied advanced arms could end up in the hands of its arch-enemy Iran or the Lebanese Hezbollah group.