A Russian arms industry source on Friday denied
that anti-aircraft missile systems had been delivered to the Syrian
regime, while the MIG corporation confirmed the sale of 10 fighter
jets to Damascus.
The denial, made by an unnamed source quoted by Russia's Interfax news agency, came after President Bashar al-Assad was reported to have said that the first batch of S-300 missiles had already arrived in Syria.
The source said the shipment times for four missile systems destined for Syria have not been confirmed. The Kommersant daily, also citing an unnamed source, reported that the delivery was planned for the second quarter of 2014.
Yuri Ushakov, President Vladimir Putin's chief foreign policy aide, declined to comment on these reports. He merely said Moscow was fulfilling its obligations and would not deliver any internationally banned weapons.
The Kremlin official also denied that Moscow would agree on any new arms shipments in reaction to the European Union's recent decision to phase out an arms embargo. "As far as I know Russia has no prospects of concluding new contracts," Ushakov said.
MIG chief executive officer Sergei Korotkov, meanwhile, told reporters outside Moscow that the company was selling more than 10 of its fighter jets to Damascus.
Korotkov said that the MIG-29MM2 jets would be delivered according to a contract and that a Syrian delegation was currently in the Russian capital to sort out the details.
Various media had reported on Al-Assad's missiles comments, which were taken from excerpts of an interview given to Lebanon's al-Manar TV channel and screened late Thursday.
The Lebanese al-Akhbar newspaper quoted him as saying: "Syria has received the first batch of Russian S-300 anti-aircraft missiles."
However, when the interview was aired late Thursday, that exact quote was absent.
When asked whether the S-300 anti-aircraft missiles shipment arrived in Syria, al-Assad said: "All of our agreements with Russia will be implemented, some have been implemented during the past period and, together with the Russians, we will continue to implement these contracts in the future."
Russia, a staunch ally of al-Assad, has defended its delivery of weapons to the conflict-torn country, saying it is fulfilling existing arms contracts.
The latest developments come ahead of a meeting in Geneva on Wednesday between officials from Russia, the United States and the United Nations. At the meeting, they will discuss plans for an international peace conference designed to end a conflict that according to the UN has killed at least 80,000 people so far.
Al-Assad has confirmed his government's attendance at the proposed peace talks. But Syria's opposition coalition has said it will not take part, citing "massacres" in Syria.
"We hope that both the opposition and the government will participate in the conference because it is for us the only way to have a peaceful and political solution," said Michael Mann, a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
"The only way to resolve the crisis in Syria is through inclusive negotiations of all the partners who believe in democracy and who want an inclusive and democratic solution," he added.
French President Francois Hollande said France could arm the Syrian opposition if the Geneva conference failed or did not take place.
"We think that today the solution must be political. But to ensure the political solution prevails one cannot rule out the hypothesis of military pressure, in this case, lifting the embargo" on weapons to the opposition, Hollande told France 24.
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