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Will Israel provide Georgia with defensive weapons?

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, April 23
Foreign Media speculates that in response of Russia’s solution to sell S-300 missiles to Iran, Israel might provide Georgia and Ukraine with air-defense capabilities after the seven year gap.

Secretary of the President’s Security Council Irine Imerlishvili confirms that talks on the purchase of defense weapons are ongoing with several states, France and Israel among them.

On April 13, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a presidential decree paving the way for the long-overdue delivery of S-300 surface-to-air missile system to Iran.

The S-300 is a mobile surface-to-air missile defense system that couples powerful radars with high-speed, long-range missiles. It is capable of shooting down aircraft over a large area.

The decision to lift the ban came after Iran and the P5+1 group of countries - the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany - reached a mutual understanding on Tehran’s nuclear program in the Swiss city of Lausanne on April 2.

Moscow had banned the delivery of the system to Tehran in 2010 under the pretext that the agreement it signed with Iran in 2007 was covered by the fourth round of the United Nations Security Council sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program. The resolution bars hi-tech weapons sales to the Islamic Republic.

The Russian solution turned out to be extremely alarming for Israel, which has notoriously bad relations with Iran. Iran does not recognize the existence of Israel as a state at all.

In a call to Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that “the sale of advanced weapons to Iran is the result of the dangerous agreement that is emerging between Iran and the six world powers. After this arms deal is there anyone who can seriously claim that the agreement with Iran will increase the security in the Middle East?”

For its side, Russia claims that selling the defense weapon to Iran will not pose any threats for Israel, since the S-300 is solely a defensive weapon system.

The White House suggested that Moscow’s move to lift its ban on supplying anti-aircraft systems to Iran shows the weakness of Russia’s sanctions-hit economy.

“The defense minister has stated that negotiations on purchasing of defense weapons are actively ongoing with France, Israel and some other countries. The talks were launched far before the recent solution of Russia. No decision has been made as of yet,” Imerlishvili says.

The Embassy of Israel to Georgia refrains from speaking on the issue. They stress that they have no information concerning the negotiations.

Analyst Tornike Sharashenidze believes that Russia would show irritation over such decisions. However, Russia’s position must not be a point for the Georgian side.

“Russia will attempt to suppress us anyway. It is better for us to be ready for the aggressive steps that might be taken by Russia in the future,” Sharashenidze says.

Before the August War 2008 between Georgia and Moscow, Georgia purchased defense weapons from Israel that were used in the war against Russia.

After the August War, Russia and Israel agreed that the latter would no longer sell defensive weapons to Georgia; in exchange, Russia would not sell weapons to Iran.