Syria seeks to revive fighter jet deal with Russia

Moscow, June 1 (IANS/RIA Novosti) Syria wants to revive a contract to purchase MiG-29M/M2 fighter jets from Russia in the wake of upcoming expiration of an EU embargo on arms sales to Syria, the representatives of aircraft maker MiG said Friday.

"A Syrian delegation is currently in Moscow. We're discussing details and timeframe of a possible contract," MiG head Sergei Korotkov told journalists without elaborating.

Syria signed a contract for the jets in 2007. But the outbreak of the civil war in Syria in 2011 prompted the plane maker to put a deal to deliver 24 MiG-29MM fighter jets on hold, a MiG representative said while requesting anonymity.

The $1 billion deal included 24 MiG-29s, as well as five MiG-31 interceptors, Kommersant daily said in 2007. The head of the Russian state arms export monopoly Rosoboronexport, Anatoly Isaikin, denied the MiG-31 deal in 2010, but did not mention the MiG-29 contract.

The Syrian Air Force revisited the deal ahead of the expiry of the European arms embargo against Syria, the MiG representative said.

EU foreign ministries failed this week to reach an agreement to prolong ban on arms sales to Syria, introduced in 2011, and expires this Friday.

The decision leaves EU countries "most of which support the opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad" free to supply arms to Syria.

The foreign ministers of all 27 EU member nations agreed to withhold actual supplies of arms until Aug 1, after the international conference on Syria, tentatively scheduled for mid-June.

The conference on Syria is a joint project by Russia and the US, which hope to get the Syrian regime and the rebels to negotiate and begin reconciliation by working out a transitional government.

--IANS/RIA Novosti

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