Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad said on Wednesday he will use a visit this week to Russia to expand military ties with Moscow. Russia's conflict with Georgia, in which Moscow claims Georgia used Israeli-supplied equipment, underlined the need for Russia and Syria to tighten their defense cooperation, Assad said in an interview with Russia's Kommersant newspaper.
The Syrian leader said: "Of course military and technical cooperation is the main issue. Weapons purchases are very important," and added, "I think we should speed it up. Moreover, the West and Israel continue to put pressure on Russia."
Assad said Israel's role in Georgia would only encourage countries like Syria to step up cooperation with Russia. "And if before in Russia there were people who thought these forces can be friendly then now I think no one thinks that way."
Assad backed Russia's pursuit of its "legal interests" in its conflict with Georgia and accused the West of using "total disinformation" to isolate Moscow. "On this issue we fully support Russia... Georgia started this crisis, but the West is blaming Russia," Assad said.
The West is guilty of "total disinformation, distorting facts and attempts at international isolation" in its reaction to Georgia-Russia conflict. "The war, which was triggered in Georgia, is the culmination of attempts to encircle and isolate Russia" as the US continues to push Cold War-era policies, Assad said. Russia was merely "defending its legal interests," he said.