Russian contract for delivery of S-300s to Syria yet to be fulfilled - Putin

S-300 surface-to-air missile system (RIA Novosti / Valeriy Melnikov)
Russia has not yet completed its contract to supply Russian-made S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Syria, President Vladimir Putin said.

“As for the S-300s, it’s one of the best air defense systems in the world,” Putin said following a Russia-EU summit. “It’s a serious weapon. We would not like to tip the balance of power in the region. We signed the contract a few years ago. It has not been implemented yet.”

Russia’s S-300 contract with Syria has been a contentious issue in international diplomacy recently. Opponents of the Syrian government insist that Russia’s planned sale of the system would aid Damascus in its fight against the rebels.

Moscow maintains that the S-300s will help stabilize Syria by deterring those who seek to escalate the conflict, and would not help the Syrian government fight the rebels, who do not have aircraft or missiles.

Defending the existing contract, Putin stressed that the deliveries are transparent and do not violate international law. He went on to mention that Britain sponsored an international treaty that forbids supplying arms to non-governmental actors.

“We presume that all UN members will join it or at least starting from this day follow the rules and principles, which our British colleagues suggested,” Putin said.

Last week, the EU did not extend its arms embargo against Syria. Some European countries, including the UK and France, may now supply arms to Syrian rebel groups after August 1. The fractured Syrian opposition has so far failed to form a working government.

Putin also commented on the planned international conference in Geneva for negotiations between the Syrian government, rebel leaders and other parties interested in resolving the two-year civil war. He said the unwillingness of some rebel groups to talk and the lack of a unified opposition leadership hamper the peace process.

“The Russian Foreign Minister and the US Secretary of State prepared our proposition on the issue; it has been agreed upon. Our side took upon itself the responsibility to convince the Syrian leadership to take part in this conference. As you know, the Syrian leadership has already officially confirmed that they agree to take part in it,” Putin added.

The Russian president added that the conference would not miss the absence of some rebels, such as the militant leader showed in video footage to be feasting on the body of a Syrian army soldier.