US Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday warned the sale of sophisticated surface-to-air Russian missiles to Syria would be "potentially destabilising" for the region, reacting to reports of a planned sale by Moscow.
"We had previously stated that the missiles... are potentially destabilising with respect to the state of Israel. And so we've made it clear historically that this is a concern of the United States," Kerry said after talks with Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino in Rome on a whirlwind tour aimed at reviving diplomatic talks on Syria and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
"I think we have made it crystal clear that we would prefer that Russia is not supplying assistance," he said at a press conference.
The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday reported that the Israel has warned the United States that Russia plans to sell sophisticated missile systems to Syria, which would complicate any foreign intervention there.
The Journal reported that Israel had provided information to Washington about the imminent sale to Syria of Russian S-300 missile batteries, advanced ground-to-air weapons that can take out aircraft or guided missiles.
Syria has been a close military ally of Moscow for decades, and Russia has blocked international efforts to isolate President Bashar al-Assad's regime over its brutal crackdown on a two-year-old rebellion.
The Israeli report said Syria has been making payments on a 2010 deal to buy four batteries from Russia for $900 million, according to the Journal.
The package includes six launchers and 144 missiles, each with a range of 125 miles (200 kilometres), it said.