Russia planning to sell 10 fighter jets to Assad regime
Russia is to sell at least 10 fighter jets to the Syrian government as the international debate raged over arms supplies to the civil war-torn country.
Sergei Korotkov, director general of the government-controlled MiG aircraft manufacturer, said it planned to sign a contract to send the MiG-29 M/M2 planes to Damascus.
"A Syrian delegation is presently in Moscow," he said, according to Russian news agencies. "The details and timescale of a possible contract for delivery are being discussed." Other reports suggested that a contract had already been signed some time ago.
The Kremlin supports the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, and has resisted western attempts to censure his regime for alleged atrocities during the country's two-year civil war.
More than 70,000 people have died in the fighting. This week, Britain and France forced the European Union to lift an arms embargo on Syria, opening the way for rebels fighting Mr Assad's forces to receive weapons supplies from their western supporters.
William Hague, the British Foreign Secretary, said that Britain had no immediate plans to send arms but could now do so whenever it liked.
Moscow reacted sharply to the end of the embargo, promising to deliver S-300 air defence batteries to Damascus as a means of restraining "hot-heads" who it claimed were pushing for outside intervention.
Mr Assad confirmed in a television interview on Thursday that Russia was fulfilling contracts to supply him with arms, although he did not make clear whether S-300s had been delivered. Reports in the Russian media yesterday appeared to reject claims they had already been sent, suggesting they might be delivered next year.
John Kerry, the US secretary of state, said yesterday that the delivery of Russian weaponry would be "not helpful".
Meanwhile, Iran has cut up to €17.5m a month in funding for Hamas as punishment for the movement backing the uprising in Syria, the Palestinian Islamist group's leaders have admitted.
The rupture has been caused by Hamas's refusal to toe the Iranian line by supporting President Bashar al-Assad, whose Alawite regime has a loose religious relationship to the Shia Islam practised by Iran's ruling theocracy.
Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, has sided with its Sunni co-religionists who are trying to unseat Mr Assad, in common with other mainly Sunni countries such as Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. (© Daily Telegraph, London)