Barak seals Russian defence deal

Show of unity comes after strains in ties over Russian arms contracts in the Middle East.

    Barak's visit is part of an ongoing dialogue to prevent Russian missile sales to Syria and Iran [Reuters]

    Russia and Israel have signed a military co-operation agreement, according to the defence ministers of the two countries.

    Anatoly Serdyukov, the Russian defence minister, and his visiting Israeli counterpart, Ehud Barak, did not reveals details on Monday on the nature of the deal, which came after disputes over Russian arms contracts in the Middle East.

    "I am sure the agreement we are signing today will give a new boost to our bilateral relations," Russian news agencies quoted Serdyukov as saying in Moscow.

    "Our views on many challenges of today are close or identical," he said. "Primarily this concerns issues of terrorism and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction."

    Security ties "help prevent these threats", he said.

    The show of unity came after strains between Russia and Israel over Russian arms sales to Israel's major regional foes, Syria and Iran.

    Russian officials said earlier this year that Moscow was selling Syria MiG-29 fighter jets, Pantsir short-range air-defence systems and armoured vehicles, provoking anxiety in Israel.

    The Israeli press has also reported that Barak's two-day visit is part of an ongoing dialogue to prevent Russia selling P-800 Yakhont cruise missiles to Syria, which Israel fears will be transferred to Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shia political group with a powerful armed wing.

    Israel is also concerned about Russia's deal with Iran to supply S-300 surface-to-air missile defence systems, a contract signed several years ago which would significantly improve Iranian air defences.

    However, Russia has yet to deliver the weapons amid heavy pressure not only from Israel but also the US.

    Barak noted "improving relations" between Russia and Israel, and thanked Russia for its fight against fascism during World War II.

    "We know the truth: the state of Israel would not exist if the Red Army had not defeated fascist Germany," he said.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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