Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke by phone Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying the missiles he is allowing to be shipped to Iran are “purely defensive” and won’t threaten the Middle East.
The conversation comes a day after Putin announced Russia was immediately lifting a five-year ban on transferring one of the world’s most advanced anti-aircraft systems to Iran. Less than two weeks ago, Iran reached a framework agreement with world powers, including Russia and the United States, on limiting its nuclear program in return for lifting economic sanctions.
Russia said Tuesday it would be at least six months before it could deliver the S-300 air defense missile system to Iran, the Associated Press reported.
In the phone call, Putin explained the logic behind his actions, saying the decision “would not pose any threat to the security of Israel or other countries in the Middle East” because the tactical and technical specifications of the air defense missile system make it a “purely defensive weapon,” according to a statement by the Kremlin.
Netanyahu expressed Israel’s “grave concerns” over the missile system, telling Putin the sale “will only encourage Iranian aggression in the region and further undermine the stability of the Middle East,” according to a statement from the prime minister’sIsrael opposes the nuclear deal reached this month and says Iran may try to develop a nuclear bomb in secret. Israel has threatened to use military force to prevent that from happening. The advanced defense system Putin agreed to deliver would make an Israeli attack more difficult.