US slams Russia over Syria arms deal
US Secretary of State John Kerry has strongly condemned Russia's pledge to sell an advanced missile system to Damascus, questioning Moscow's commitment to end the Syrian conflict, as concern grew for civilians trapped in the battle for a key Syrian town.
Speaking from Washington, Kerry warned that the planned delivery of S-300 air defence missiles to Damascus was "not helpful" as the US and Russia pressed on with their joint efforts to set up a peace conference, dubbed Geneva 2, to try to end the Syrian conflict.
Kerry said the delivery would have a "profoundly negative impact on the balance of interests and the stability of the region, and it does put Israel at risk".
It is "not helpful to have the S-300 transferred to the region while you are trying to organise this peace and create peace," he added, questioning whether Russia was fully committed to ending Syria's two-year-old conflict.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, in Washington for talks with Kerry, also appealed to Russia to consider.
"I would like to make this absolutely clear. We tell our Russian colleagues, don't endanger the conference in Geneva," he said.
"The delivery of weapons to the Assad regime is totally wrong," he said.
In a television interview broadcast Thursday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad appeared to imply that Russia had already started to deliver sophisticated S-300 missile systems under a contract with Syria.
Russia's Vedomosti and Kommersant newspapers said Moscow might not deliver the missiles this year, rejecting claims they had already arrived.
Russian news agency Interfax reported that Moscow could supply 10 ultra-modern MiG-29 fighter jets to Syria under a possible contract being discussed with Damascus.
Syrian troops and Hezbollah allies meanwhile pressed ahead with their assault on the strategic town of Qusayr as hundreds of rebels reportedly broke through army lines to join the battle.
The Syrian opposition said Friday that hundreds of rebel reinforcements, most of them close to the Muslim Brotherhood, had now reached Qusayr.