"The contract for deliveries of MiG-31s to Syria exists only in the tall tales of journalists," Anatoly Isaikin, the head of Russian state arms exporter Rosoboronexport, told Russian news agency RIA Novosti. "Rosoboronexport has not signed any such contract and there are no negotiations on this subject."
Speaking on the sidelines of the international aerospace exhibition Euronaval 2010 at Le Bourget, outside Paris, Isaikin was eager to refute all speculations. He knows well that such a deal would provoke the United States as a key ally of Israel, Syria's neighbor to the southwest. Syria and Israel are at odds on many issues.
Jerusalem and Washington have lobbied against Israeli-Syrian arms deals, worried that the weapons would further destabilize the region or even end up with terrorists.
Russian newspaper Kommersant had reported that the contract for eight MiG-31 jets for up to $500 million was signed as early as 2007. Introduced in the early 1980s, the MiG-31 is a large supersonic fighter jet developed by Russia's Mikoyan design bureau.
Russian media have regularly reported about alleged Russian-Syrian arms deals, most recently about the delivery of P-800 Yakhont anti-ship cruise missiles and the associated Bastion missile system. Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov last month said the delivery would go ahead.
However, Isaikin denied that there was a deal.
"Rosoboronexport does not have delivery contracts for Yakhont missiles or Bastion," Isaikin was quoted by RIA-Novosti as saying Thursday. "Rosoboronexport delivers arms in compliance with international norms without upsetting regional balances of power, and does not permit the illegal proliferation of arms ... or allow them to fall into the hands of terrorists or abhorrent totalitarian regimes."
Codenamed SS-N-26 by NATO, the P-800 Yakhont is a supersonic anti-ship cruise missile developed by Russia's NPO Mashinostroyeniya. It can be launched from land, ships, submarines and airplanes.
Israel is worried that Hezbollah would get the missile, using it against Israeli ships. During the 2006 Israeli offensive against Lebanon, Hezbollah fired a similar missile at the INS Hanit, killing four soldiers and severely damaging the Israeli corvette.