MOSCOW -- Russian officials on Friday defended the country's weapons sales to Syria, saying the country is primarily providing defense systems that are in line with international treaties.
Responding to news reports that
“We haven’t concealed that we have been supplying weapons to Syria based on signed contracts without violating any international treaties or Russian legislation, one of the strictest in the world in terms of export control,” Lavrov said at a news conference at the Black Sea resort area of Sochi after meeting with
"We are primarily supplying defensive weapons, antiaircraft systems," he continued, weapons that he said "don't upset the balance of forces in the region and don't create advantages in the struggle against the opposition."
U.S. officials would like Russia and Iran to curtail weapons shipments to Syria, which they fear encourage Assad to believe he can defeat the
News of the recent shipments comes as U.S. and Russian officials are trying to organize a conference next month that would bring representatives of Syria's government and rebel groups to the negotiating table. But President Obama reaffirmed at a news conference Thursday that he has little interest in taking military action, including a no-fly zone.
Igor Korotchenko, editor in chief of Russia's monthly National Defense journal, told the Los Angeles Times the Yakhonts are designed for full-scale combat activities at sea.
“The cruise missiles, which fly at supersonic speeds only a few yards over the sea surface, are powerful defensive weapons should the U.S.A.,
He added that Russia's contract with Syria prohibits Assad's government from selling the missile systems to a third party and allows Russian inspectors to verify the weapons' whereabouts.
"There is absolutely no danger that these systems may end up in the hands of Hezbollah or any other such groups and organizations," he said.