Russia to Sell Air-Defense System to Syria

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Two days after American and Russian leaders met in Moscow to talk about restoring peace in war-torn Syria, Russia announced plans to sell advanced anti-missile defense systems to the Syrian government, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

According to the report, Russia plans to sell six advanced S-300 anti-missile batteries and 144 missiles to upgrade Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's already substantial air defense system.

The S-300 is one of Russia's most sought-after weapons. It can intercept cruise missiles and bring down jet fighters.

On Tuesday, Secretary of State John Kerry met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow ostensibly to find a "peaceful solution" to Syria's civil war, which has killed more than 70,000 and displaced upwards of a million civilians.

Thursday's report quotes Israeli officials saying Assad began making payments on the $900 million arms deal in 2010, but Russia and Syria have been discussing arms deals for years. 

In August 2007, Russia negotiated a complex arms deal with Syria that included payment of an $11 billion debt, Russia's RIA news agency reported at the time.

Russia reportedly lopped 70 percent of the debt off the top and divided the remaining 30 percent between cash payments and permanent port services for the Russian navy at Syria's Tartus and Latakia ports.

Meanwhile, for the first time since Israel's alleged airstrikes on Syrian missile depots last weekend, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicized the fact he and President Obama spoke overnight Wednesday.

On the last day of his five-day state visit to China, Netanyahu told reporters he also discussed Israel's security issues with key figures in China and with President Putin last Monday evening. Netanyahu will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping today.

"There is an understanding that we are concerned about the security and stability of Israel and the region surrounding it," Netanyahu told the press before touring the Great Wall of China outside Beijing.

The White House declined to provide any information on Wednesday evening's phone call.

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