Israel trying to stop reported Russia, Syria arms deal

jerusalem (ap) | Israel is trying to halt an arms deal in which Russia would supply advanced missiles to Syria, Israeli officials said this week.

The officials spoke after a Russian newspaper reported the deal.

The deputy Russian foreign minister is in the Middle East to discuss the matter, the Israeli officials said on condition of anonymity. The United States is aware of the growing crisis between Russia and Israel, they said.

The Russian daily Kommersant reported this week that Israel recalled its ambassador over the deal. Israeli officials said the ambassador was in Israel on vacation and denied he had been recalled.

The newspaper said Moscow planned to sell Iskander-E missile complexes to Syria. The missiles can destroy targets up to 175 miles away and would put all of Israel’s territory, including the Dimona nuclear center in the Negev desert, in jeopardy, Kommersant reported. It said that Syria had turned to Moscow two years ago with a request to purchase 18 Iskander-E complexes, but that the equipment had not even been tested, so Damascus settled for Kornet-E and Metis-M missile systems.

The press service of Russia’s main arms export company, Rosoboronexport, said it had no information that Russia was planning such a sale.

Mikhail Troyanovsky, the deputy director of the Russian Foreign Ministry press service, said that “all issues pertaining to the Kommersant publication are being thoroughly studied by the Foreign Ministry.”

Israeli military officials have expressed concern that the missiles would get into the hands of Hezbollah and disrupt the military balance in the Middle East.

Syrian President Bashar Assad is due to visit Russia next week.