Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Tuesday that he would fly to Moscow later this month for a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the situation in Syria.
“It’s very important that we continue to prevent Iran from entrenching in Syria,” Netanyahu said at a joint press appearance in Jerusalem with visiting Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen. “In many ways we’ve blocked that advance and we’re committed to continue blocking it, preventing Iran from creating another warfront against us, right here opposite the Golan Heights.”
The Netanyahu-Putin sit-down is scheduled to take place on Feb. 21.
Relations between Jerusalem and Moscow have been clouded in recent months by a mid-September incident in which a Russian military plane was accidentally downed by a Syrian anti-aircraft missile over the Mediterranean Sea, near Latakia. Russia charged that Israel had indirectly caused the mishap by not providing enough advance warning of an IAF operation that was taking place in the area at the time.
Israel and Russia have sought to avoid such occurrences since Moscow’s military intervention in Syria on behalf of the Assad regime in the ongoing civil war in the country began in 2015.
Netanyahu and Putin have talked by telephone several times since September, and also had a face-to-face chat on the sidelines of a World War I armistice commemoration in Paris three months ago.
Meanwhile, Ali Shamkhani — the secretary of Iran’s National Security Council — warned Israel on Tuesday of a “firm and appropriate” response if it continued striking targets in Syria.
In recent years, the Israeli military has acted numerous times in Syria to thwart Iran’s ambitions there — including the transfer of advanced weaponry to Hezbollah, the Tehran regime’s Lebanon-based Shi’a proxy.
The Algemeiner (c) 2018 . Barney Breen-Portnoy