Israeli, Russian officials to meet for talks on continued Syria coordination

Israeli and Russian military officials are set to meet on Tuesday for talks on deepening the two countries’ coordination in Syria amid a bloody civil war that has seen increasing intervention from Moscow.

It was not immediately clear where the officials would be meeting, according to Army Radio.

The meeting comes after talks between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Paris climate conference on Monday.

Netanyahu said after the meeting that Israel and Russia are to increase their military coordination during the latter’s ongoing airstrikes in Syria.

“I just had an important talk with Russian President Vladimir Putin. We agreed to deepen the coordination between us in order to prevent mishaps and to do so on a broad basis,” Netanyahu told reporters after their brief meeting.

“I think that every citizen of Israel understands today, in light of recent events on the Turkish border, the great importance of my trip to Moscow and these ongoing contacts with the Russian president,” he said, referring to the Russian jet shot down last week by Turkey along the Turkish-Syrian border.

Furthermore, Netanyahu said, senior Israel Defense Forces and Russian military officers were to meet Tuesday “in order to continue this policy.”

The prime minister said the Kremlin strongman had updated him on the developments with the Russian warplane.

Putin also expressed satisfaction at the deconfliction agreement reached with Netanyahu in September, which outlined a mechanism to avoid unintended clashes between the activity of the IDF and the Russian army. He also acknowledged the mechanism had been proposed by Netanyahu.

The meeting came on the heels of statements from senior Israeli officials, who publicly praised the close security coordination between Jerusalem and Moscow, saying it had prevented incidents like the downing of the Russian warplane.

Over the weekend, several Israeli officials including Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and senior defense official Amos Gilad indicated that Russian pilots had breached Israeli air space during operations in Syria but that the mechanism in place between the two countries have so far prevented any major escalation or incidents.

The plane incident sent recriminations flying between Turkey and Russia — two players in the Syrian war — just as Western allies began a push for a broader coalition to try to defeat the Islamic State terrorist group.

Putin told Netanyahu on Monday that he extended his good wishes ahead of the “very bright” Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, which he said “symbolizes the triumph of light over dark.”

The Russian president also expressed the hope that the spirit of the holiday would extend to “international affairs.”

Tamar Pileggi


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