Hoover Digest

The World Tribune

Assad to renew military ties with Russia


Friday, April 9, 1999

MOSCOW [Middle East Newsline] -- Russia and Syria will try to renew military ties when Syrian President Hafez Assad arrives in Moscow for a two-day visit next week, officials said on Thursday.

Assad, will arrive in Moscow on Tuesday and will meet the following day with Russian President Boris Yeltsin, Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov and Russian cabinet officials. Assad's visit begins as Israeli Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon wraps up his visit to Moscow.

"Russia, as a co-sponsor of the Mideast settlement, concentrates its efforts on pulling the peace process out of a critical situation," because all talks over the Mideast settlement -- Palestinian- Israeli, Syrian-Israeli and Lebanese-Israeli ones are stagnating," Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told Itar-Tass. "We continue active consultations with Syria and Israel in order to find mutually acceptable solutions."

"It is obvious for us that if succession is not restored in this or that shape -- if the Madrid land for peace principle is not re-confirmed -- it will be very difficult to resume the Syrian-Israeli negotiations," Ivanov said.

Russian diplomatic sources in Moscow told Tass that in the course of Hafez al-Assad's visit, the parties will discuss issues of bilateral military cooperation. Russian-Syrian military ties were frozen in 1991 over a dispute that concerned Damascus's $11 billion debt.

The exception, they said, was a $270 million contract to deliver in 1992-1993 T-72A tanks to Syria. The sources said Syria has resolved the debt issue and has found funding for new arms purchases from Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Last year, the sources said, Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev reached an accord with the Syrians to supply Damascus with Su-27 planes, T-80 tanks and air defense systems based on S-300. In a deal estimated at $2 billion, Russian specialists will also help upgrade MiG-21, MiG-23 and MiG-29 jet-fighters.

The sources said the Assad visit will discuss implementation of this program.

Friday, April 9, 1999

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