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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 October 2018

Russia begins missile system delivery to Syria, warns West on peace talks

Moscow recently accused Israel of causing the downing of a Russian jet in Syria

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov talks with reporters during a press conference on the sidelines of the General Debate of the 73rd session of the General Assembly of the United Nations. EPA
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov talks with reporters during a press conference on the sidelines of the General Debate of the 73rd session of the General Assembly of the United Nations. EPA

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday Moscow had started delivering the S-300 surface-to-air missile system to Syria and warned Western powers of trying to undermine UN-led efforts to end the seven-year conflict.

Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu had said on Monday the system would be delivered to Syrian President Bashar Al Assad's forces in two weeks despite strong Israeli and United States objections. A week previously, Moscow had accused Israel of indirectly causing the downing of a Russian military jet in Syria.

"The delivery started already and as President (Vladimir) Putin said, after that incident ... the measures that we will take will be devoted to ensuring 100 per cent safety and security of our men," Mr Lavrov told a news conference at the United Nations.

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Read more:

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Russia, along with Iran, has helped Mr Al Assad recover huge amounts of lost territory in Syria without persuading him to agree to any political reforms. It has also pushed its own talks with Iran and Turkey, known as the Astana process, as UN-led peace negotiations have stalled.

Some diplomats have said the Israeli incident and a Turkish Russian deal to suspend an offensive on the last rebel-held stronghold of Idlib could provide a window to push for the implementation of UN Security Council resolution 2254 that covers ending the conflict in Syria.

The UN Security Council, which includes Russia and the US, has mandated UN envoy Staffan de Mistura to get a deal on a new constitution, new elections and a reform of Syria's governance.

Mr de Mistura's first task is the formation of a constitutional committee to decide whom to pick. He has said he will select about 50 people, including supporters of the government, the opposition and independents to participate, but so far the Syrian government has rejected the idea.

Meeting in New York on Thursday, foreign ministers from the United States, Egypt, France, Germany, Jordan, Britain and Saudi Arabia called on Mr de Mistura to convene the constitutional committee and report back on progress by the end of October.

Mr Lavrov accused the group of trying to undermine the Astana efforts and putting pressure on Mr de Mistura so that they could impose their own resolution of the conflict, describing it as "a grave mistake."

"This is aimed at undermining all that was done at Astana process and not the fact the Syrians decide what country they are going to live in but the architecture agreed on by foreign powers," Mr Lavrov said.