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Russia boosts military cooperation with Israel

The defence ministers of Russia and Israel on Monday signed an agreement on military cooperation, hailing the unity between Moscow and the Jewish state.

Russian Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov and visiting Israeli counterpart Ehud Barak did not give details on the nature of the deal, which came after disputes over Russian arms contracts in the Middle East.

“I am sure the agreement we are signing today will give a new boost to our bilateral relations,” said Serdyukov, quoted by Russian news agencies.

“Our views on many challenges of today are close or identical,” he said. “Primarily this concerns issues of terrorism and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.”

Security ties “help prevent these threats,” he said.

The show of unity came after strains between Russia and Israel over Russian arms sales to the Jewish state’s major regional foes, Syria and Iran.

Russian officials said earlier this year that Moscow was selling Syria MiG-29 fighter jets, Pantsir short-range air defence systems and armoured vehicles, provoking anxiety in Israel.

The Israeli press has also reported that Barak’s two-day visit is part of an ongoing dialogue to prevent Russia selling P-800 Yakhont cruise missiles to Syria, which Israel fears will be transferred to Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

Israel is also concerned about Russia’s deal with Iran to supply S-300 surface-to-air missile defense systems, a contract signed several years ago which would significantly improve Iranian air defences.

However, Russia has yet to deliver the weapons amid heavy pressure not only from Israel but also the United States.

Barak noted “improving relations” between Russia and Israel, and thanked Russia for its fight against fascism during World War II.

“We know the truth: the state of Israel would not exist if the Red Army had not defeated fascist Germany,” he said.