Moscow: Russia reserves the right to provide Syria with state-of-the art air defence missiles, seeing it as a key deterrent against foreign intervention in the country, a top Russian official said on Tuesday.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov wouldn`t say whether Russia has shipped any of the long-range S-300 air defence missile systems, but added that Moscow isn`t going to abandon the deal despite strong Western and Israeli criticism.
"We understand the concerns and signals sent to us from different capitals, we realise that many of our partners are concerned about the issue," Ryabkov said, adding that "we have no reason to revise our stance."
"We believe that such steps to a large extent help restrain some `hot heads` considering a scenario to give an international dimension to this conflict," he said.
Russia has been the key ally of the Syrian regime, protecting it from the United Nations sanctions and providing it with weapons despite the civil war there that has claimed over 70,000 lives.
Ryabkov didn`t say when the contract was signed or give any other details.
It is unclear if Moscow has provided Damascus with any of the S-300s missiles, a powerful weapon that has a range of up to 200 kilometres and the capability to track down and strike multiple targets simultaneously.
The weapon would be a major boost for Syria`s air defence capabilities, including against neighbouring countries that oppose Assad`s regime.
Ryabkov`s statement comes a day after European Union`s decision to lift an arms embargo to Syrian opposition.
He criticised the EU decision, saying it would help "fuel" the conflict and defended the S-300 deal, saying the air defence weapons can`t be used in the civil war against the opposition, which doesn`t have aircraft.