Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Monday that Moscow would consider supplying its S-300 missile defense system to Syria.
He told the BBC in an interview that the recent US-led airstrikes on Syrian military targets had led to Moscow to mull a reversal in its policy.
“A few years ago at the request of our partners, we decided not to supply S-300s to Syria,” he said. “Now that this outrageous act of aggression was undertaken by the US, France and UK, we might think how to make sure that the Syrian state is protected.”
Asked by the interviewer to clarify his position and confirm that Moscow would indeed consider supplying the S-300 to Syria despite the fact that Israel would be “gravely concerned” by such a move, Lavrov responded: “Whatever is required to help the Syrian army to deter aggression, we would be ready to consider.”
The Russian-made system is one of the most advanced of its kind in the world, offering long-range protection against both airplanes and missiles. The system has been supplied by Moscow to Tehran, and deployed by the Russian army in Syria, and Israeli officials have expressed concerns that selling it to Damascus could weaken Israel’s regional air supremacy.
Last Monday, Israel allegedly struck the T-4 air base in central Syria where Iran has reportedly been building a fully functional air base of its own and where it has centered its attack drone operations. The base was reportedly protected by surface-to-air missile defense systems.
While refusing to comment on whether it carried out the strike, Israel on Friday revealed for the first time that an Iranian drone dispatched from T-4 in February was an attack drone that carried explosives and was headed to an unspecified location in Israel when it was shot down 30 seconds after entering Israeli airspace.
Israel lost an F-16 in retaliatory raids hours after the drone was downed on February 10, the first loss of a fighter jet in action in 35 years. The Israeli plane was hit by Syria air-defense fire, and crashed in Israel; the two pilots ejected to safety.
Lavrov’s interview came in the wake of airstrikes Saturday on Syrian military targets led by the US in a joint operation with Britain and France, in response to the Assad regime’s alleged use of chemical weapons earlier this month.
The targets were a scientific research facility near Damascus, a chemical weapons storage facility west of the city of Homs, and a third location near Homs that contained both a command post and a chemical weapons equipment storage facility, the US military said.
Meanwhile, Syrian state-run media reported that the country’s air defenses confronted a new “aggression,” shooting down missiles over the central region of Homs early on Tuesday. Following reports that the strike was carried out by Israel, an IDF spokesman said he was “not aware of such an incident.”