Russia claims S-300 may close parts of Syrian airspace

By Emre Gurkan Abay

MOSCOW (AA) – Russia claimed that its S-300 defense system will be able to close parts of the Syrian airspace "where necessary", a Russian Foreign Ministry director said in a news conference on Tuesday.

Vladimir Ermakov, director of the department for nonproliferation and arms control of the Russian Foreign Ministry, said: "Russia's supplies to Syria would be able to close Syrian airspace where necessary."

"There is nothing at all [to prohibit Russia's move] in the area of reduction of strategic offensive weapons, missile arsenals and nuclear weapons, except the Russia-U.S. agreements. And the current situation allows to assume that the probability of concluding some new agreements in the coming years is not very high," said Ermakov.

On Monday, Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said in a statement that the country will give a S-300 anti-aircraft missile system to the Syrian regime forces within two weeks.

"It is capable of intercepting air threats at a range of more than 250 kilometers and simultaneously hitting several aerial targets," he said in the statement.

Contrary to concerns of U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton that the deployment would escalate tensions, Ermakov said, it would in fact "lead to stabilization" of the situation in the region.

"In fact, these actions will lead to the stabilization of region, as we will be able to close the airspace if and where necessary, and, most importantly, our servicemen that fulfill their international duty at the Syrian government's invitation will be protected," he said, as quoted by state news agency RIA Novosti.

Also speaking at the news conference, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov reiterated that S-300 systems' supplies were "not directed at any third country".

Last week, Israeli F-16s entered Syrian airspace to strike Syrian military targets in the northwestern Latakia province.

When Syria’s Russian-built S-200 air-defense system responded to the airspace breach, a Russian Il-20 military plane was struck by a missile, destroying the aircraft and killing all 15 servicemen on board.

Moscow accused Israel of using the Russian aircraft as a shield against the Syrian defense.

Russia backs Syrian regime forces while Israel conducts airstrikes against alleged Iran-backed forces operating along its border.

The two militaries cooperate through an emergency hotline to prevent incidents.

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