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February 26, 2019 2:36 pm

Israel’s Netanyahu Takes Break From Campaign Trail for Moscow Meeting With Putin on Iran, Syria

avatar by Barney Breen-Portnoy

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin in Moscow, May 9, 2018. Photo: Amos Ben Gershom / GPO.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet in Moscow on Wednesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“The focus of our talks will be the Iranian entrenchment in Syria,” Netanyahu — the Likud leader who is seeking a fifth term as prime minister in April’s Knesset elections — said on Tuesday, ahead of his departure for Russia. “We are taking action against it; we are attacking their bases. We will continue to take action against it.”

“We will continue to act until we get the Iranians to leave Syria because Iran is threatening to destroy Israel and we will not allow it a base close to our border,” he added.

A Kremlin statement on Tuesday said Putin and Netanyahu would discuss “key issues of bilateral cooperation, first of all on the trade-economic and humanitarian trajectories,” and also “exchange opinions on the current situation in the Middle East, including Palestinian-Israeli settlement and the situation in Syria.”

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The Moscow sit-down was originally supposed to take place last week, but was delayed as Netanyahu stayed home to broker a widely-criticized political deal that could bring followers of the late far-right extremist Rabbi Meir Kahane into the next Knesset.

Netanyahu faces a stiff challenge in the upcoming vote from the centrist Blue and White joint list led by Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid, but the fight against Iran is a consensus issue among all of Israel’s mainstream parties.

Relations between Jerusalem and Moscow have been clouded recently 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 in the ongoing civil war in the country began in 2015.

Netanyahu and Putin have talked by telephone several times since September, and also had a face-to-face chat on the sidelines of a World War I armistice commemoration in Paris three months ago.

Over the past few years, the Israeli military has acted numerous times in Syria to thwart Iran’s ambitions there — including the transfer of advanced weaponry to Hezbollah, the Tehran regime’s Lebanon-based Shi’a proxy.

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