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Kremlin Defends Missile Deal With Saudi Arabia

Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) and Saudi Arabia's King Salman attend a welcoming ceremony ahead of their talks in the Kremlin in Moscow on October 5.

The Kremlin says an agreement to sell Russian missiles to Saudi Arabia does not pose a threat to any other country.

Speaking on October 9, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the deal to supply the long-range S-400 air-defense missile systems to Riyadh "isn't directed against any third country." He was responding to a question asking if the deal could pose a threat to Iran.

The agreement was one of many weapons deals reached during Saudi King Salman's first visit to Russia last week.

Observers say the king's talks with Putin marked a thaw in relations between the countries, which have often been tense since the Cold War.

A Russian S-400 air-defense missile system
A Russian S-400 air-defense missile system

Saudi Arabia is a long-standing U.S. ally in the Middle East and its arms deals with Moscow have caused concern in Washington.

Soon after the arms deals with Moscow were announced, the Pentagon said the U.S. State Department had approved the possible sale of a THAAD antimissile defense system to Saudi Arabia at an estimated cost of $15 billion.

Peskov was asked by reporters on October 9 whether the possible U.S. deal with Riyadh might impact the Russian arrangement.

"We can speak only for ourselves," said Peskov. "[But] contacts to implement this contract have been very positive and have had very good preliminary results."

Maria Vorobyova, an official at a Russian government agency dealing with military and technical cooperation, was cited earlier on October 9 as saying that a firm agreement had been reached with Saudi Arabia on the S-400s.

"An agreement has been reached with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia to deliver the S-400 air-defense system, antitank Kornet-EM rocket systems, TOS-1A (multiple rocket-launcher) systems, AGS-30 automated grenade launchers, and Kalashnikov AK-103 assault rifles," the RIA Novosti news agency cited her as saying.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and RIA Novosti