The delivery of S-300 air defense systems to Iran is not a matter of near future, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told the media on Thursday, according to official Russian news agency Tass.
“I do not think that it is a matter of near future. It is far more important that a political and legal decision has been taken to open up such an opportunity,” Ryabkov said, adding that “the situation had changed drastically” after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s April 13 decision to lift the freeze on the sale of S-300 systems to Iran, and signed a decree allowing such deliveries.
The statement by Rybakov does not necessarily mean that Moscow is postponing the delivery, since experts have said that it could take two years for the systems to be installed in any case.
Under a 2007 contract, Moscow was to deliver to Tehran five medium range S-300 missile systems worth over $800 million. The missiles were seen as game-changers that would make it much more difficult for Israel or another state to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities with planes and/or missiles.
The Iranian side paid $166.8 million in advance, according to Tass. However, by mid-2010 the systems had still not been not supplied to Iran.
In September 2010, then-President Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree regarding the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1929, which specifically banned the supply of S-300s to Iran.
The contract with Iran was then canceled and the advance payment was sent back to the Islamic Republic.
Tass cited Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov as explaining that Russia’s embargo on deliveries of S-300 systems to Iran is no longer needed due to progress in the resolution of the standoff around Iran’s nuclear program.
“Initially, the decision to suspend the implementation of the contract, which was already signed and came into force, was made in September 2010,” he recalled. “It was done in the interests of support for consolidated efforts of the six international negotiators to stimulate a maximally constructive process of talks on settlement of the situation around Iran’s nuclear program.”
The embargo “was done absolutely voluntarily,” he stressed.