Russia, Syria sign agreement for major arms deal (WORLD TRIBUNE) MOSCOW, Russia 01/26/05)
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MOSCOW – Russia and Syria have signed an agreement that could pave
the way for a major weapons deal.
The two countries signed a military cooperation agreement that would
facilitate the sale of Russian weapons to Damascus. Moscow and
Damascus also agreed to resolve the dispute over Syria´s $13 billion
debt to the former Soviet Union.
The agreement was signed in Moscow on Tuesday during the visit by
Syrian President Bashar Assad. Officials said Assad and Russian
President Vladimir Putin signed an accord that would enable Russia to
resume major arms sales and upgrades for Syria´s military.
"The two countries agree to pursue traditional cooperation in the
military-technical sphere in keeping with their mutual interests and
international obligations," the Russian Itar-Tass news agency
So far, neither Russia nor Syria announced arms deals during Assad´s
visit, which began on Jan. 24. But Assad did not rule out Syria´s
purchase of the SA-18 surface-to-air short-range air defense systems.
"These are defensive weapons, air defense, to prevent aircraft from
entering our airspace," Assad said. "If Israel is against us
acquiring them, it´s as if it was saying ´We want to attack Syria but
we don´t want them to protect themselves.´"
Officials said the main obstacle to a major Russian arms deal to
Syria was an agreement to resolve its debt to Moscow. They said
Russia agreed to forgive more than 70 percent of Syria´s $13 billion.
"We have resolved the debt issue on mutually acceptable terms, which
gives us the basis for long-term cooperation in the future," Putin
Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said Moscow wrote off 73
percent of the Syrian debt. Kudrin said 40 percent of the remaining
debt would be repaid over the next decade. Kudrin was quoted by the
Interfax news agency as saying that the rest of the debt could be
repaid in Syrian products.
Officials said Assad was examining a range of Russian weapons. They
included the Iskander-E long-range rocket, anti-tank missiles and the
TOR-M1 anti-aircraft defense system.
Syria was said to have signed a $20 million deal for the SA-18 with
Russia. But officials said the agreement has been suspended amid
Israeli and U.S. opposition. (Copyright © 2005 East West Services,
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