Russia backs off Syrian air defense after Putin-Netanyahu meeting

May 11 (UPI) — Russia has reversed course and dropped plans to deliver advanced S-300 air-defense systems to Syria, a Kremlin spokesman said Friday.

The change followed a meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Israel became concerned about the possible arrival of a new defense system in Syria after a wave of airstrikes on targets in Syrian by French, British and U.S. fighter planes in April. The airstrikes were retaliation for an alleged chemical weapons attack by Syria.

Israel worried installation of the defense systems could upset the balance of power in Syria and could make Israeli aircraft penetration more difficult.

Supply lines in Syria, manned primarily by Iranian soldiers, have been a frequent target of Israeli airstrikes. A large attack occurred Wednesday and Thursday after Syrian troops, the Israeli armed forces say, fired a barrage of missiles into the Israeli-held Golan Heights.

The presence of the S-300 system could have complicated Israel’s efforts, the Moscow Times reported Friday.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said there was never a formal plan to equip Syria with the systems, but Kremlin aide Vladirmir Kozhin said, “We’re not discussing any deliveries of advanced new systems,” and added the Syrian military “has everything it needs.”

Last month, Russia hinted it might supply the materials to the Syrian regime.