TEL-AVIV, October 3. /TASS/. Israel cannot give up operations in Syria even though Russia has supplied air defense systems S-300 to that country, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman told the public broadcaster Kan in an interview on Wednesday.
"I cannot say that we are happy about the presence of S-300 [in Syria - TASS], but at the same time this is a situation where we have no way out, where we have no opportunity to make decisions," Lieberman said. "In any case, we are not looking for adventures. We merely protect our vital interests. Regrettably, we are in a situation where we cannot afford any compromises concerning our security interests."
Once again Lieberman blamed the Syrian military for the loss of Russia’s Ilyushin-20 plane. "It was Syria’s air defense that shot down the Russian Ilyushin-20. The responsibility rests squarely on Syria," he claimed. "I’ve seen the version that Israel was hiding behind. I am not going to wage any media battles with the Russian side. It is very regrettable that fifteen Russian soldiers and officers lost their lives," he said, adding that "at the same time we [the Israelis - TASS] were acting in a balanced and responsible way."
In his opinion it is important to restore working relations [with Russia - TASS] to normal.
"Currently the main task is to get back to the normal working regime, to coordination, and to use more actively the hot line for preventing conflicts," Lieberman said. "Over years we have established a very good, working relationship with the Russian side and we have nothing to hide."
"Our stance is transparent and clear. We have explained it to our partners in Russia and to the world community more than once," Lieberman said. "As long as our interests remain unaffected, we never take any action, but it is clear that we cannot afford to let the whole territory of Syria become one large base for Iran. We will be acting in accordance with our interests."
"We have been acting not with accordance with media reports. The calendar is absolutely irrelevant. We act in accordance with the information being received by our special services," he said. "When we have confirmed information about an attempt to move some weapons from Iran to Syria or from Syria to Lebanon (for the Shiite movement) Hezbollah, we take action."
Supply of S-300 to Syria
Russia has supplied to Syria 49 pieces of equipment under the decision to provide the S-300 air defense system in order to enhance the security of Russian military personnel in that country, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said at a meeting of the Security Council chaired by President Vladimir Putin. He believes that it would take three months to instruct Syrian specialists in using the S-300 systems. The work to create a unified system of command of Syria’s air defenses will be completed by October 20, Shoigu said.
Russia’s radio-electronic reconnaissance plane Ilyushin-20 was shot down over the Mediterranean in the evening of September 17 on its way back to the Khmeimim base. The Russian Defense Ministry said that it was hit by a missile launched with the air defense system S-200, which was counter-attacking four Israeli F-16 jets that were dealing strikes against targets in Latakia province. The Russian Defense Ministry said the Israeli pilots in fact used the Ilyushin-20 as a cover, thus exposing it to air defense fire. Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov blamed the loss of the Illyushin-20 entirely on the Israeli Air Force and those who made the decision to use the Russian plane as a decoy.