Russian President Vladimir Putin has lifted a ban that prohibited the transfer of S-300 air defence missile systems to Iran.
The Kremlin Press Service said: "The Executive Order lifts the ban on transit of the S-300 air defence missile systems via Russian Federation territory (including by air), export from the Russian Federation to the Islamic Republic of Iran, and transfer of the S-300 to the Islamic Republic of Iran outside the Russian Federation’s territory, using ships or aircraft flying the Russian Federation."
Iran had ordered five S-300PMU-1 systems from Moscow under an $800m deal in 2007, but the contract was cancelled by former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev following a fourth UN Security Council arms embargo against the country in June 2010.
According to media reports, Iran sued Rosoboronexport in the Geneva International Court of Justice in April 2011, demanding the company to either honour the contract or pay $4bn as compensation.
In an attempt to bypass the lawsuit, Russia offered to deliver additional Tor-M1E missile systems and then the Antei-2500 anti-ballistic missile systems after Iran rejected the previous offer.
Putin’s order comes after Iran signed a framework agreement with the P5+1 countries on 2 April, to restrict its nuclear programme in exchange for decreased economic sanctions against it.
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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was quoted by RT as saying: "We believe that at this stage there is no longer need for this kind of embargo; from the Russian side it was unilateral and voluntary.
"Meanwhile, a modern air defence system is now very relevant to Iran, especially taking into account the severe escalation of tensions in neighbouring areas and especially the rapid development of military activity in Yemen in recent weeks."
Meanwhile, Israel and the US have criticised Russia’s move citing that the delivery could make it difficult for them to launch airstrikes on Iranian nuclear facilities, in case of failure of the diplomatic track, The Wall Street Journal reported.
In addition, the White House warned that the missile system, which Lavrov claimed is purely ‘defensive in nature,’ would boost Tehran’s ability to challenge key US allies in the Middle East, such as Israel and Saudi Arabia.
The S-300 is a mobile, long-range air defence system designed to detect, track, and destroy incoming cruise missiles, ballistic missiles and high and low-flying strike aircraft. It is built by NPO Almaz Bureau.
Different S-300 variants are currently in use with Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, China, Russia, Ukraine, Venezuela, and Vietnam.
Image: A S-300 anti-aircraft missile system at the Victory Parade, Red Square, Russia. Photo: courtesy of kremlin.ru.