“We think more troops in the region doesn’t help, especially now when we agreed with the Americans to bring the conflicting parties to the table to start to launch a dialogue,” Alexander Kalugin, Russia’s ambassador in Amman, told the Financial Times.
Abdullah Ensour, prime minister of Jordan, on Saturday said that the country was hosting 900 US military personnel, the first such public acknowledgment by a Jordanian official.
He told reporters in Amman that 200 were personnel training for how to handle a possible chemical attack from Syria. Another 700 are manning a Patriot missile defence system, F-16 fighter jets, and other defence systems that the US left behind in Jordan after a military exercise that ended on June 20.
Last week, President Barack Obama informed congress of the deployment. In a letter he sent to John Boehner, US speaker of the House of Representatives, the president said: “The detachment will remain in Jordan, in full co-ordination with the government of Jordan, until the security situation becomes such that it is no longer needed.”
Mr Obama added that the military deployment served “important national interests in supporting the security of Jordan and promoting regional stability”.
Jordan, which borders Syria and is hosting more than half a million refugees from the conflict, has declared itself neutral.
However, the recent “Eager Lion” military exercise, which involved 19 countries and about 8,000 personnel – with the largest numbers by far coming from the US and Jordan – was seen as provocative by Russia, which backs President Bashar al-Assad in the war.
Russia has also been sharply critical of the stationing of Patriot missiles in Turkey. The US, Russia and parties to the conflict plan to hold a peace conference on Syria in Geneva, but the sides have clashed over terms and representation, and no date for the meeting has been set.
There is no training in our country whatsoever of Syrian opposition forces- Abdullah Ensour, prime minister of Jordan
Jordanian officials deny they have any plans to take part in a no-fly zone and also dismissed recent US media reports claiming that the Central Intelligence Agency and US special forces were training Syrian rebels in Jordan.
“There is no training in our country whatsoever of Syrian opposition forces,” Mr Ensour told journalists on Saturday. “The only Syrians we are dealing with in our country are refugees.”
The Patriot deployment in Jordan comes after Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov’s confirmation last week that his country will fulfil a contract to supply S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Mr Assad’s government.
Israel, which says it is neutral in the Syrian war, claims that the missiles could be used offensively. The weapons have not yet been delivered, but Israeli officials have hinted they would strike militarily to prevent their deployment.