Netanyahu in talks with Russians to avoid Syria ‘frictions’
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday held talks with two Russian officials on reinforcing their military coordination in Syria in order to avoid any “friction” there, his office said.
The talks focussed on “Iran and the situation in Syria, and strengthening the security coordination mechanism between the militaries in order to prevent friction,” said a statement from his office.
At the meeting, the Kremlin’s Syria envoy Alexander Lavrentiev and Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin “reiterated Russia’s commitment to the maintenance of Israel’s national security,” it added.
On January 17, officials from both countries held talks in Israel to improve coordination between their armed forces to avoid “friction” in Israel’s operations against Iran in Syria.
Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes in Syria in the past few years against Iranian and Hezbollah targets, and the Jewish state and Russia have set up a “de-confliction” hotline aimed at avoiding accidental clashes.
That mechanism was stretched when a Russian military aircraft was mistakenly shot down by Syrian air defences after an Israeli raid in September.
Fifteen Russian soldiers were killed and the Russian army accused Israeli pilots of using Moscow’s plane as cover to evade Syrian gunfire.
As part of its response, Russia announced new security measures to protect its military in Syria, including supplying Syria with an S-300 air defence system and jamming the radars of nearby warplanes.
Netanyahu has told Russian President Putin that Israel is determined to prevent Iran from entrenching militarily in Syria, according to his office.
Both Russia and the Islamic republic, Israel’s arch-enemy, are allies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and have helped his forces inflict numerous defeats on rebels and jihadists.