Defense Minister says Israel is not concerned by Russia’s military presence in neighboring Syria.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said on Friday that Israel is not concerned by Russia’s military presence in neighboring Syria because Moscow is a “pragmatic actor” with whom deals can be struck.
“What is important to understand is that the Russians, they are very pragmatic players,” said Liberman during a discussion on the alliance between Russia, Syria and Iran at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, as quoted by AFP.
“At the end of the day, they are reasonable guys, it’s possible to close deals with them and we understand what is their interest,” added the Defense Minister.
“Their interest is very different from our interest but we respect their priorities,” he said. “We try to avoid direct frictions and tensions.”
Liberman’s comments came days after Russia’s Defense Ministry said the country plans to deliver new air defense systems to Syria in the near future.
No exact date was provided and it was unclear whether the comments referred to the advanced S-300 system which was developed by Russia.
Russia and Syria signed a deal in 2010 for the S-300 system but the missiles have not been delivered because of Israeli pressure. The Russians have deployed the S-300 around their own Tartus naval base on Syria’s Mediterranean coast and the more advanced S-400 at their Hmeimim air base in western Syria.
Liberman said on Friday that the expanded Russian presence in Syria was “not our business. We try only to protect our own security interests.”
Earlier this week, the Israeli Defense Minister said that Israel may strike the Russian-made S-300 anti-aircraft defense systems in Syria if they are used against Israel.
His comments followed a report in the Russian newspaper Kommersant which said that Moscow could soon start to deliver S-300 systems to Russia.
“One thing should be clear – if someone fires on our planes, we will destroy them,” Liberman told the Ynet news website. “What’s important to us is that the weapons defense systems that the Russians transfer to Syria are not used against us. If they are used against us, we will act against them.”
Even though Israel has insisted it will not get drawn into the Syrian civil war, it has been accused of carrying out dozens of air strikes on regime positions and of having targeted weapons that were coming from Iran and were destined for the Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah.