JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Sunday criticised Russia for supplying arms to Syria, saying the move did not help efforts to bring peace to the region.
“The sale of these weapons does not contribute to building an atmosphere of peace,” Lieberman told Israel’s public radio in what was an unusually muted statement from the outspoken minister.
Lieberman’s remarks came just days after a top Russian military official said Moscow was supplying Syria with MiG-29 fighter jets, Pantsir short-range air defence systems and armoured vehicles.
He also insisted the regime of Bashar al-Assad was not interested in peace, and described as “naive” anyone who believed Syria would be ready “to cut ties with Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia” in exchange for a return of the Golan Heights, which Israel occupied during the 1967 Six Day War.
Israel and Syria remain technically in a state of war, and Russia’s arms sales and possible nuclear cooperation with Syria, which has close ties to Iran, is unnerving for both the Jewish state and Washington.
Israel has also accused Syria of supplying Hezbollah with Scud missiles.
Lieberman also fired a further salvo of criticism over Russia’s “hypocritical” stance on terrorism after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev held talks with exiled Hamas supremo Khaled Meshaal during a visit to Damascus.
Following the visit, Medvedev and his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul called for the radical Islamist movement, which has ruled Gaza since 2007, to be included in the peace process — in a move which drew a furious response from Israel.
“Russia, but also Egypt and Turkey as well as other countries, have a policy of differentiating between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ terrorism, between that which targets Israel and that which targets others,” Lieberman said.
“We will not accept any ultimatum with regard to Hamas, and we won’t let this movement take part in any peace process,” he said.