US shares Israel's concern on Russian missile sales to SyriaWashington (AFP) Sept 20, 2010 - US Defense Secretary Robert Gates assured his Israeli counterpart Ehud Barak Monday that the United States shared Israeli concern about Moscow's sale of cruise misiles to Syria. "In today's meeting, the secretary (Gates) expressed that we share Israel's concerns about proliferation of advanced weapons that could destabilize the region," Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said. Gates also addressed the issue with his Russian counterpart Anatoly Serdyukov when he was in Washington September 15, the spokesman said.
"Russia has a right to sell weapons to other countries but as they do so, we hope that they take into account the strategic ramifications of each sale," Morrell said. News of the sale emerged on Friday when Serdyukov told reporters in Washington that Moscow would fulfill a 2007 contract to supply Yakhont cruise missiles to Damascus, Russia's ITAR-TASS news agency reported. The sale, worth at least 300 million dollars, will see Syria receiving around 72 cruise missiles, the Interfax news agency said on Sunday, citing defence industry sources.
"This decision translates into a very poor demonstration of responsibility by a country which sees itself as influential and which claims to act in favor of regional stability," a senior Israeli government official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity. "These weapons could affect the strategic balance in a fragile region which has only just begun peace negotiations," he said, referring to direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians which began on September 2. Syria and Israel remain technically in a state of war, and Russia's arms sales and possible nuclear cooperation with Damascus, which has close ties to Iran, is unnerving for both Washington and the Jewish state.