Israel plays down defense ties with Georgia


Israel is seeking to play down its defense exports to Georgia, which is battling Russia in a border war.

As fighting intensified over the weekend in Georgia’s breakaway South Ossetia region, Russian media queried to what extent their foe had benefited from Israeli arms and military training.

Fearing a crisis with Moscow, Jerusalem officials said that Israeli defense ties with Georgia were scaled down months ago.

Israel’s annual military dealings with Tbilisi are worth approximately $200 million a year, a defense source said, adding that this is dwarfed by Georgian purchases from other arms suppliers such as the United States.

While Israel previously sold Georgia some tactical missile systems, its more recent sales are exclusively defensive, the source said.

Israel’s Defense Ministry also turned down a proposal to sell tanks to Georgia.

Tensions over Israel’s ties to Tbilisi, and how this might impact relations between Jerusalem and Moscow, come amid international concern over the prospect of Russia selling advanced anti-aircraft missiles to Iran.

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