Putin meets Syrian VP: Sale of Russian portable surface-to-air missiles not discussed
Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed to restore close diplomatic ties with Damascus at a meeting with Syrian Vice President Abdel Halim Khaddam.
Putin and Khaddam promised also to defend each other's interests, and to work together to help calm Israeli-Palestinian violence. "Russian-Syrian relations are very important. We must hold dialogue and hold to a line that answers our interests," Putin said.
His remarks came in an introductory speech to Khaddam that was broadcast on Russian television. The meeting was also aimed at preparing a visit to Moscow by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Later, Igor Ivanov, Russia's Minister of Foreign Affairs, who attended the meeting in Moscow said the two sides expressed their political will to revive bilateral contacts in the political, economic, military-technological, cultural and other areas to the full extent. The two countries' experts will carry on consultations to draft documents that would give an impetus to the development of Russian-Syrian relations, said Ivanov.
Putin said Moscow and Damascus had to draft joint policies, both on the looming confrontation over Iraq and on ways to solve Israeli-Palestinian violence. Russia and Syria were "united by long-standing close ties," he said.
"I expect that your visit will serve as a good impetus for our relations to develop on all fronts," he told Khaddam.
Ivanov added after the talks that the two sides had avoided discussion of a sale to Syria of Russian portable Igla surface-to-air missiles, which Syria could use to shoot down Israeli warplanes.
Russia made military sales "based on its own assessment of the situation, not under pressure" ITAR-TASS quoted the Russian foreign minister as saying.
Khaddam told Putin he hoped Moscow and Damascus could "calm the international situation," ITAR-TASS reported.
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