The two leaders met in the Russian Black Sea resort city of Sochi late on Thursday. Officially, the talks were outlined as a discussion on bilateral relations and various security issues – international terrorism and the situation in Syria. Putin said that both Russia and Israel are “well aware” of what terrorism is and said that cooperation is particularly important to combat it.
Netanyahu, for his part, singled out the issue of Iran, stating that Tel Aviv “won’t tolerate Tehran’s threats,” yet again accusing it of using Syria’s territory to wage “aggression” against Israel. The Israeli PM would like Moscow to share such a stance and ultimately see Iranian presence eliminated in Syria, Netanyahu’s spokesman Evan Gary Cohen suggested.
“I think that the Iranian presence in Syria is something that the Russians and the Israelis both would like to end. It’s not something that they desire,” Cohen told RT.
This opinion appears to be in stark contrast with that of Moscow, which has been engaged in military and economic cooperation with Tehran, while repeatedly criticizing the attempts to paint Iran as the sole source of troubles in the Middle East. Russia has condemned Israeli attacks on the supposedly “Iranian-linked” targets in Syria. One such raid resulted in the loss of a Russian reconnaissance plane and the deaths of all 15 onboard, after it was accidentally shot down by Syrian air defenses.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, both Putin and Netanyahu stressed the importance of cooperation between the militaries of the two countries, needed to prevent any potential run-ins between them as well as to fight terrorism. Ahead of the meeting with Putin, the Israeli PM – who has also been the country’s defense minister since the resignation of Avigdor Lieberman – met his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu.
Netanyahu lauded the “natural connection” and a “human bridge between Israel and Russian-speaking countries,” and called the talks with Shoigu “important.” He, however, said that the Israeli military must maintain “freedom of action,” which is essential to prevent Iran from entrenching in “our region.”
We are operating constantly and it is important to prevent unnecessary collisions. This is what we are doing in meetings such as these and also, of course, in the many telephone conversations between them. pic.twitter.com/8Tr62th0xh
— PM of Israel (@IsraeliPM) September 12, 2019
Putin and Netanyahu touched upon another hot topic – the upcoming September 17 parliamentary elections in Israel. Critics of the Israeli PM have claimed that Netanyahu’s visit was a PR stunt in a bid to secure his re-election.
Netanyahu’s spokesman vehemently denied to RT any alleged links between the elections and the talks, insisting that they were all about security.
Putin said that Moscow closely watches the elections, since Israel is home for over 1.5 million people, who came from the former Soviet Union.
“We’ve always regarded them as our people, we call them our compatriots,” Putin said. He didn’t voice any explicit support for Netanyahu, however, instead saying he hoped “responsible politicians” would end up in charge of the Knesset.
(Source: Russia Today)