MOSCOW — Russia on July 11 said it would fulfill a contract to deliver air defense systems to Syria and had no plans to impose an arms embargo on its ally, despite growing pressure from the West.
“Russia has obligations before Syria relating to old contracts — contracts that were signed in 2008 and were later followed by new ones on air defense systems,” said Vyacheslav Dzirkaln, the Russian Federal Service for Military Technical Cooperation’s deputy chief.
“They are being fulfilled and they will be fulfilled,” he told Russian news agencies on the sidelines of the Farnborough International Airshow near London. “But we are not signing any new contracts at this stage,” the senior arms export official added in comments echoing ones he had made earlier in the week.
Dzirkaln said Russia’s decision not to sign new contracts with Syria while the fighting continued in no way spelled a shift in policy or a decision by Moscow to comply with a Western arms embargo of Assad’s regime.
“One cannot possibly speak of us imposing an arms or military technology embargo on Syria,” Dzirkaln was quoted as saying.
Russia last month tried sending a cargo ship to Syria with three repaired attack helicopters as well as elements of an air defense system for President Bashar Assad’s regime.
The vessel was forced to return to its Arctic base in Russia after the mission was exposed by the U.S. State Department, and its British insurer ended up dropping cover.
Dzirkaln on July 11 vowed to complete the shipment and stressed that most outstanding contracts now concerned air defense systems that were meant to protect Syria’s border in accordance with international rules.
“We are delivering weapons and military technology of an exclusively defensive nature. This primarily concerns air defense systems but also some spare parts,” he said.
Dzirkaln said Russia was now thinking up ways of delivering the three helicopters “without any losses to us and without any provocations by the interested parties.”
Officials previously suggested that an option to send the parts by air had been dropped in favor of a new seafaring mission.