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January 4, 2019 9:51 am

After US Pullout, Israel and Russia Agree to Bolster Coordination in Syria

avatar by Barney Breen-Portnoy

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, May 9, 2018. Photo: Sergei Ilnitsky / Pool / File photo via Reuters.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladmir Putin spoke by telephone on Friday to talk about the situation in Syria following US President Donald Trump’s recent announcement of the pullout of American troops from the country.

The two leaders agreed on “the need for the final defeat of terrorism and speedy achievement of a political settlement in Syria,” the Kremlin said, the Russian news agency TASS reported.

“To that end, the parties reaffirmed their mutual determination to strengthen coordination through military and diplomatic channels,” the Kremlin added.

Friday’s call was initiated by Netanyahu, according to the Kremlin.

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A statement issued by Netanyahu’s office said the prime minister told Putin that Israel was “determined to continue its efforts to prevent Iran from entrenching itself militarily in Syria.”

Netanyahu and Putin last spoke in early December, when the Israeli leader conveyed a similar message.

Relations between Jerusalem and Moscow have been clouded in recent months by a mid-September incident in which a Russian military plane was accidentally downed by a Syrian anti-aircraft missile over the Mediterranean Sea, near Latakia. Russia charged that Israel had indirectly caused the mishap by not providing enough advance warning of an IAF operation that was taking place in the area at the time.

Israel and Russia have sought to avoid such occurrences since Moscow’s military intervention in Syria on behalf of the Assad regime began in 2015.

Trump’s surprise decision last month to bring home the over 2,000 US soldiers who had been working in northeastern Syria with an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias in areas once held by ISIS drew a lukewarm response from Israel, which is concerned about Iran’s activities in its war-torn neighbor to the northeast.

At a meeting with Netanyahu last week in Brazil, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US withdrawal “in no way changes anything this administration is working on alongside Israel.”

“The counter-ISIS campaign continues, our efforts to counter Iranian aggression continue and our commitment to Middle East stability and the protection of Israel continues in the same way it did before that decision was made,” Pompeo emphasized.

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