Middle East leaders flock to Moscow for Syrian talks, arms deals
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Middle East leaders flock to Moscow for Syrian talks, arms deals

Iranian delegation expected to seal S-300 delivery date; heads of state from Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and UAE also head to Russia

Technicians prepare Ilyushin Il-76TD long-haul cargo aircrafts for the upcoming MAKS-2015, the International Aviation and Space Show, in Zhukovsky, outside Moscow, on August 21, 2015. (AFP/KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV)
Technicians prepare Ilyushin Il-76TD long-haul cargo aircrafts for the upcoming MAKS-2015, the International Aviation and Space Show, in Zhukovsky, outside Moscow, on August 21, 2015. (AFP/KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV)

Russian President Vladimir Putin will host Iranian officials along with a slew of other Middle Eastern leaders this week, to seal a lucrative weapons deal with Tehran and also to discuss solutions to the ongoing Syrian conflict.

Iranian officials were slated to arrive in Moscow on Monday to finalize negotiations for Tehran’s purchase of S-300 air defense systems from Russia, much to the dismay of the United States and Israel.

An Iranian source told Sputnik News that the sides are expected to set a date for the delivery of the advanced anti-aircraft missiles in the first days of the Maks defense industry confab, which kicks off Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the Jordanian King and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi were also in Moscow Tuesday to discuss the Syrian crisis and take part in the showcase of Russia’s military industry.

Jordanian King Abdullah II and the strongman of the United Arab Emirates, Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, will visit Moscow one day before Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi arrives in the Russian capital to attend the Maks-2015 military salon.

Despite foreign interest in the Russian space and defense industries, no international contracts are expected to be signed during the salon, a spokesman for Russia’s state defense import-export company Rosoboronexport, Vyacheslav Davydenko, told AFP last week.

Middle Eastern government delegations have been flooding into Moscow in recent weeks and days, with a Syrian opposition delegation tolerated by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad arriving on Sunday for talks on the crisis in their war-torn country.

The visits come as Russia, one of the few remaining allies of the Assad regime in Syria, has renewed diplomatic efforts to find a resolution to the four-year civil war that has claimed some 240,000 lives.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin (R) welcomes Iran's President Hassan Rouhani during the 7th BRICS summit in Ufa on July 9, 2015. (Alexander Nemenov/AFP)
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (R) welcomes Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani during the 7th BRICS summit in Ufa on July 9, 2015. (Alexander Nemenov/AFP)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recently hosted his Saudi and Iranian counterparts in an effort to push a plan for a broader grouping than the current US-led coalition to fight the Islamic State group, which would include Syria’s government and its allies.

Assad’s opponents have rejected the idea.

The Russian president and the head of Jordan’s Hashemite kingdom are also expected to discuss the prospect of jointly building Jordan’s first nuclear station, according to the Kremlin.

King Abdullah II, who has made 13 visits to Russia since acceding to the throne in 1999, and President Vladimir Putin are expected to discuss the “fight against the Islamic State terrorist group, the resolution of the Syrian conflict and the peace process in the Middle East”.

Some 600,000 Syrians are registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in neighboring Jordan. Amman claims it is hosting some 1.5 million Syrian refugees.

Putin’s talks with the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi will be focused on energy, as well as “stability and security” in the Middle East and Northern Africa, the Kremlin said.

Modernizing the Russian army

Putin and his foreign guests will attend the opening on the biennial Maks salon, where more than 700 Russian and foreign companies from 30 countries will be represented.

The salon opens as Russia is grappling with a crippling economic crisis on the back of Western sanctions over the Ukraine crisis and lower oil prices.

Russia has nonetheless been spending billions of dollars to modernize its army and conduct snap combat readiness checks from the Arctic to the Far East.

Russia earned $15.5 billion from arms sales last year in spite of Western sanctions imposed against its defense sector, making Moscow the world’s second largest arms exporter after Washington, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Domestic arms orders, including the Russian army’s purchase of some 50 Sukhoi-35 fighter jets, are expected to be made at the salon, business daily Vedomosti reported.

The Sukhoi T-50, a 5th generation fighter jet conceived jointly with India, is expected to be introduced to the Russian army next year.

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