Israel considers halting arms sales to Georgia

August 10th, 2008 - 8:13 pm ICT by IANS  

Jerusalem, Aug 10 (Xinhua) Israel is planning to halt arms sales to Georgia amid fears of Russian retaliation, daily Ha’aretz reported Sunday. “Israel needs to be very careful and sensitive these days,” an unnamed senior Israeli political source was quoted as commenting on the country’s stance over the fighting between Georgian and Russian forces in South Ossetia.

The Israeli foreign ministry last week held a meeting on the issue, and decided to recommend to the defence ministry to stop sales of military equipment to Georgia because the country was now a “combat zone,” said the report.

The newspaper added that the Jewish state is concerned that its continued military support for Georgia would spur Russia to retaliate by lifting restrictions on its arms transfers to Iran and Arab states.

“The Russians are selling many arms to Iran and Syria and there is no need for them to offer an excuse to sell even more advanced weapons,” the source said.

He highlighted that Israel is particularly concerned about Russia’s interest in transferring advanced S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Iran, which Israel considers to be its main strategic threat.

The Israeli defence ministry imposed significant limitations on the arms transfers to Georgia about six months ago, only allowing defensive equipment and advisers, in view of the growing friction between Georgia and Russia, Ha’aretz reported.

Also in the day, the defence establishment held a special meeting to discuss the various arms deals held by Israelis in Georgia, yet no change of policy has been announced, according to another daily Yedioth Ahronoth.

“The subject is closely monitored,” the newspaper quoted defence sources as saying. “So far, we have placed no limitations on the sale of protective measures.”

Israel began selling arms to Georgia about seven years ago, and the value of the defence deals between the two countries stands at $200 million, said the newspapers.

South Ossetia declared independence from Georgia in the early 1990s and was governed by a secessionist government since then although its independence has not been internationally recognised.

Georgian troops Friday mobilised army against South Ossetia in an attempt to re-establish control over the region.

The development drew Russia into a war with Georgia and Russian jets and tanks drove into South Ossetian capital Tskhinvali to secure it from the Georgian invasion.

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