|Russia to sell MiG fighters to Syria||
Russia's MiG aircraft maker has said it plans to sign a new agreement to ship at least 10 fighter jets to Syria.
MiG Director General Sergei Korotkov said on Friday that a Syrian delegation was in Moscow to discuss the details of a new contract for the delivery of MiG-29 M/M2 fighters. In remarks carried by Russian news agencies, he said Syria wants to buy "more than 10" such fighters, but wouldn't give the exact number, The Associated Press reported.
The significance of his comments was unclear. A MiG spokesman wouldn't comment on Korotkov's statement, and the MiG chief could be referring to a deal the company previously negotiated with Syria that apparently has been put on hold amid Syria's crisis.
Russian media reports say Syria placed an order a few years ago for 12 MiG-29 M2 fighters with an option of buying another 12. The Stockholm Peace Research Institute also has reported that Russia planned to provide Syria with 24 of the aircraft.
The MiG-29 M2 is an advanced version of the MiG-29 twin-engine fighter jet, which has been a mainstay of the Soviet and Russian air force since mid-1980s. Syria had about 20 fighters of the original make among scores of other Soviet- and Russian-built aircraft.
On Tuesday, Israel issued a veiled threat to Russia over its plan to sell S-300 air-defense missiles to Syria, implying that it is ready to use force to prevent the delivery of the missiles.
Russia has said that it would go ahead with the delivery of S-300 missiles to Syria, noting that the deal would help deter foreign intervention in the country.
Israeli Minister for Military Affairs Moshe Ya'alon commented on the plan, saying, "Clearly this move is a threat to us."
"At this stage I can't say there is an escalation. The shipments have not been sent on their way yet. And I hope that they will not be sent," he said. But "if God forbid they do reach Syria, we will know what to do."
The S-300 anti-aircraft system is designed to defend large industrial and administrative centers, army bases, and similar facilities and is capable of destroying ballistic missiles. The most recent modifications of the system can shoot down hostile missiles or aircraft up to 200 kilometers (125 miles) away.
Israel has repeatedly asked Russia to scrap the contract to sell Syria the truck-mounted S-300 missile system.
However, Russia has insisted that it will deliver the S-300 missile system to Syria.
Earlier this month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traveled to Russia to try to dissuade Moscow from delivering the S-300s to Syria.
The crisis in Syria began in March 2011, and many people, including large numbers of Syrian soldiers and security personnel, have been killed in the violence.
The Syrian government says that the chaos is being orchestrated from outside the country, and there are reports that a very large number of the militants are foreign nationals.
On May 18, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said militants from 29 different countries are fighting against the government in Syria.
“Recent credible reports show that there are approximately 29 nationalities of foreign fighters engaged in terrorism activities within Syria’s borders,” he said.
Assad stated that foreign intervention is the most important factor aggravating the situation in Syria.
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