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Israel Protests Russia-Iran Jets, Weapons Deal - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Tel Aviv- Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has protested Russia’s $10-billion deal with Iran to sell it advanced fighter jets and other arms.

Lieberman said Israel has raised the issue with Moscow to cancel the deal or to downgrade it.

But the Israeli official told reporters that the chances of halting the deal were low because the sale would be in Moscow’s interest.

“I doubt that they (the Russians) will cooperate with us,” the minister said.

The Israeli Defense Ministry has received information that Russia and Iran were in talks on the supply of $10 billion worth of weapons and hardware, including T-90 tanks, artillery systems, aircraft and helicopters.

A Knesset source quoted Viktor Ozerov, head of the Russian Federation Council’s Defense Committee, as saying that the negotiations are still underway and if the deal is concluded, the weapons will be delivered in stages over several years.

Ozerov said the first shipment could only take place in 2020, when the sanctions against selling arms to Iran are due to be lifted.

Lieberman noted that at this stage Russia and Iran are only discussing a possible deal.

He said Israel raised the issue during Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to Israel last week, as well as in talks with the Kremlin and other officials in Moscow.

“Obviously, this doesn’t please us very much,” Lieberman told the reporters.

“But the Russians aren’t asking us. We’re talking with them and trying to explain, but ultimately every country acts in accordance with its own interests. Russia is in economic trouble and it will do what’s in its best interests.”

Lieberman, who has close ties to Russian officials, rejected to tackle concerns on the reinforcement of Russian forces in Syria.

He said the Russian reinforcement with advanced missiles and an aircraft carrier would not limit the Israeli army’s ability to operate in Syria.

The Israeli military, however, is now “entirely visible” to the Russians,” he said. “Their radar sees every takeoff by one of our planes.”

“This doesn’t please us much, but this is why we have gone for a coordination mechanism with Russia so as to avoid unnecessary clashes. We’re not forgoing any of our interests, and we’re walking a fine line,” the defense minister added.