Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is expected to arrive in Moscow on Monday amid a "storm of controversy" over reports that Russia was ready to sell next-generation missiles to Israel's "arch foe" that could destroy any target in the Jewish state.
Russia has been eager to stamp out the rumors by arguing that it had long traded arms with Syria - its most important ally in the Middle East - but had no intention of selling the Iskander-E weapon that penetrates existing Western defense systems.
"Our cooperation with Syria is broad and multifaceted and includes military cooperation," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday. "But it never went outside the framework of international agreements."
He added, "This will be a very important visit for us."