Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he will soon meet Russian President Vladimir Putin, amid concerns unsettling the two countries’ “deconfliction” agreement over Syria’s crisis.
Netanyahu made the announcement at the start of Sunday’s Cabinet meeting.
The encounter will be the fourth between the two leaders this year, but the first since a Russian surveillance plane with 15 personnel was accidentally downed by Assad regime anti=aircraft fire, amid Israeli missile strikes on western Syria.
The Russian Defense Ministry accused an “irresponsible” Israeli air force of criminal negligence, asserting that Israel’s F-16 jets used the Russian Il-20 plane for cover during the attack. Moscow then finally delivered S-300 missile systems to the Assad regime, five years after suspending plans to provide the advanced anti-air defense.
A Russian military official said yesterday that “on October 1, three battalion sets of S-300PM systems of eight launchers each were delivered to Syria”, free of charge.
Israel and other countries such as France and the US have pressed the Russians for years not deliver the S-300s. The Israelis believe the air defense could limit its operations against Lebanon’s Hezbollah, an ally of the Assad regime.
Israel and Russia established co-operation over Syria after a September 2015 meeting between Netanyahu and Putin, days before Russia launched a military intervention to prop up the Assad regime. The Israelis accepted Russian freedom of operations in much of the country, and thus the survival of Bashar al-Assad as President; Moscow agreed to a buffer zone in southwest Syria, near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, free of Hezbollah and Iranian forces.
The agreement also included arrangements so the air forces of the two countries did not accidentally clash, as Russia bombed opposition territory and as Israel continued operations against Assad regime and Iranian positions amid Netanyahu’s demand for the withdrawal of Tehran’s personnel from Syria.
The Prime Minister said on Sunday that he and Putin “agreed to meet soon in order to continue the important inter-military security coordination”. He repeated that Israel will “act at all times to prevent Iran from establishing a military presence in Syria and to thwart the transfer of lethal weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon”.