MOSCOW, August 26 (RIA Novosti) – All the contracts Syria has signed with Russia are being implemented despite pressure from the West, Syrian President Bashar Assad said in an interview with Izvestia published Monday, but did not clarify the status of a deal for Moscow to deliver S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Damascus.
“Russia is supplying to Syria everything that is needed to ensure its protection and the protection of its people,” Assad said, adding that also included fuel and food supplies.
He praised Russian political and economic support, in particular “the meticulous implementation of military contracts” which he said has helped improve the country’s economic situation despite US pressure, but would not give specifics on the S-300 deal.
“Of course, no country can declare the existence of particular weapon systems or contracts for their delivery: That is part of state and military secrets,” Assad said, adding Russia is honoring all contracts it has signed with Syria.
Russia’s Vedomosti business daily reported earlier in August Moscow had postponed delivery of S-300 air defense systems to Syria, despite having received advance payment for them. The delivery, originally scheduled for spring 2013, has been pushed back to June 2014, the paper said, citing an annual report by the Moscow-based company Avangard, which manufactures the missiles for S-300 systems.
Syria reportedly contracted Russia in 2011 to deliver four S-300 systems for a price tag of $1 billion, Vedomosti said. Russian President Vladimir Putin confirmed in June a deal had been signed, but said Russia had not shipped the weapons for fear of disrupting “the balance of power in the region.”
The S-300 would be a largely useless weapon for use in the civil war that the Syrian government has been waging since 2011 because the Syrian rebels have no air force, but would be a huge obstacle if Western powers opposed to the Assad regime try to carry out air strikes against Damascus, analysts have previously told RIA Novosti.
Russia previously delivered Yakhont shore-based supersonic anti-ship missiles to Damascus despite Western and Israeli appeals not to, according to media reports. Israeli media claimed earlier this year that Israeli Air Force aircraft had targeted the missiles in Syria.
Russia has, however, suspended deliveries of 36 combat-capable Yak-130 jet trainer aircraft to Damascus, over concerns they could be deployed in the civil war there. Some of the aircraft have been completed but are “awaiting a political decision” on delivery, a defense industry source told RIA Novosti earlier this year at the Paris Air Show.
Assad made his remarks as he faces increasing pressure from Western nations concerned over the apparent use of chemical weapons recently in the Syrian conflict.
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Sunday President Obama had asked the US military to “prepare for all contingencies,” following the alleged gas attack incidents, US media reported.
The US Navy has deployed more warships to the Eastern Mediterranean, including four destroyers armed with cruise missiles armed with cruise missiles, according to US media reports.