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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 October 2018

Iranian speaker says Israel can no longer take ‘serious action’ in Syria

His comments come after the delivery of S-300 missile defense systems by Russia

A handout photo made available by the Iranian Supreme Leader Office shows Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani (third from the left) in southern Tehran, Iran, 4 June, 2018. EPA / Supreme Leader Office 
A handout photo made available by the Iranian Supreme Leader Office shows Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani (third from the left) in southern Tehran, Iran, 4 June, 2018. EPA / Supreme Leader Office 

Iran’s parliament speaker on Monday said that Israel can no longer take “serious action” against the regime’s assets in the war-torn country after Russia’s delivery of the S-300 missile defence systems to the Syrian army.

Ali Larijani was referring to Moscow’s decision to send the advanced systems to Damascus after the shooting down of a Russian plane attributed to a friendly fire incident.

Russia initially blamed Israel for the Syrian shooting down of the aircraft that killed 15 Russian crew members on September 17. Israeli jets were carrying out a raid on a Syrian weapons facility at the time in the coastal province of Latakia.

“I do not believe the Israelis are able to undertake any serious steps. It is Russia’s right to deploy the S-300 system in Syria and defend its interests, especially after the Israeli attack on the Russian plane,” Ali Larijani told the Kremlin-controlled Russia Today TV station.

“This is a legitimate right of Russia,” he told the state-owned outlet’s Arabic channel from a conference in Turkey.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin for the first time since the downing of the warplane.

Mr Netanyahu has been trying to ease tensions with Russia since the incident. Russia responded by supplying Syria with sophisticated S-300 air defense systems. Israel denies the Russian accusations and says that its jets were back in Israeli territory when the downing took place.

Speaking to his cabinet on Sunday, Mr Netanyahu said he had talked with Mr Putin and would soon travel to Moscow for face-to-face talks. He did not disclose a date for any discussions.

He said he had stressed the importance of military coordination with Russia, while also saying Israel "will act at all times to prevent Iran from establishing a military presence" in Syria. Russia and Israel set up a hotline in 2015 to avoid accidental clashes in Syria and Mr Netanyahu has visited Moscow on several occasions to meet Mr Putin since Russia entered the civil war.

Israel frequently carries out airstrikes against Iran and its allies in Syria, fearing that they will establish a permanent presence on its northern border near the occupied Golan Heights.

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Lebanese Shiite militia, which is backed by Iran and has been helping the Syrian military in the civil war, fought a one-month war with Israel in 2006 and tensions remain high on their shared border. Any established Iranian or Hezbollah presence on Israel’s northern border in Syria would leave it with enemies on two fronts.

Russia had promised to deliver the missile defence systems to Syria for the last five years but had refrained from doing so at Israel’s request.

The new deliveries have led to concern in Israel that it may have to limit its strikes against what it calls Iranian and Hezbollah targets in the Iranian country.

According to Iran’s semi-official news agency Fars, Moscow has supplied Syria with three battalion sets of S-300 defence systems that include eight launchers each.

Russia has also provided Syria with more than 100 surface-to-air guided missiles for each S-300 battalion, meaning 300 were delivered in total.

All of the equipment was provided for free by Russia, believed to have been delivered by Russian cargo planes flying into the Hmeimim Air Base in western Syria.

The system has a radius of 200 kilometres and is one of the most advanced missile defence systems in the world.

The US commander of Central Commander, General Joseph Votel, last week called the deployment a “needless escalation”.

He also warned that Russia’s move gives “cover for Iranian and Syrian regime nefarious activities”. He reiterated the US commitment to defend its presence and assets in the region.