- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The State Department says Russia’s plan to deliver advanced surface-to-air missiles Syrian President Bashar Assad’s embattled government should not rule out the possibility that Moscow will work with Washington toward bringing an end to the violence in the Middle East nation.

While Russia’s declaration that it will deliver an S-300 missile system to forces loyal to Mr. Assad has created the appearance this week of an escalation in international tensions surrounding Syria’s civil war, State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki sought to downplay the development Wednesday.

Mrs. Psaki told reporters that the Russian plan to provide the S-300 system had “long been reported.”

Secretary of State John F. Kerry, she said, even spoke about the plan with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov when the two met in Paris on Monday to discuss working together toward the creation of a future peace conference to be attended by representatives of the Assad government along with opposition forces fighting for the Syrian president’s ouster.

Recent months have seen the Obama administration consistently criticize Russia for arming Mr. Assad, and Israeli military officials said this week that Israel would bomb the S-300 system if Russia pushes forth with delivering to Syria.

Despite such posturing, Mrs. Psaki’s remarks suggested the Obama administration may be willing to make some concessions in exchange for Moscow’s help in engineering negotiations that may end Syria’s war.

“The reason that Russia plays such an important role here in our discussions and planning for the next conference is that have supported the [Assad] regime in the past,” she said. “They do have a relationship with the regime, and if we want to get both parties to the table, we need to sit down and discuss moving things forward, even with people we don’t agree on everything with.”



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