Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday labeled his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier in the day as “very successful,” adding that the two countries reached understandings over issues that had previously not been sufficiently clarified.
“I set the goal of the meeting as strengthening coordination between Russia and Israel to prevent mishaps,” Netanyahu said. “I think we clarified some matters, and that is very important.”
The issues of the Syrian civil war and the ownership of the Golan had been expected to top the agenda at the meeting. Russia has been carrying out air raids in Syria in support of embattled President Bashar Assad since September of last year. And although Moscow recently announced it would withdraw many of its troops from the war-torn country, Russian planes still regularly fly sorties there.
Netanyahu said that Israeli and Russian military officials had also discussed coordination between their armies.
“I think [such coordination] is crucial because we have to keep the freedom of movement for the army and the air force in the places that are important to us in terms of our security, and I think that this essential,” he said.
Israeli airstrikes in Syria have also been the topic of previous high-level meetings between Moscow and Jerusalem. A number of airstrikes in Syria have been attributed to Israeli efforts to prevent advanced weapons from reaching Hezbollah.
The prime minister announced he will return to Russia on June 7.
During the meeting, Netanyahu informed Putin of his “red lines” regarding the security of Israel’s northern borders, and stressed that the Jewish state was determined to maintain its control of the Golan Heights.
“I have come to Russia to step up coordination on security matters, to prevent mistakes, misunderstandings,” Netanyahu said as the two leaders met. “We are not going back to the days when rockets were fired at our communities and our children from the top of the Golan… and so, with an agreement or without, the Golan Heights will remain part of [Israel’s] sovereign territory.”
The prime minister stressed that Israel would do “everything” in its power to block Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah from obtaining advanced weapons, and was working to assure that no new “terror front” appeared on the Golan Heights.
Israel is interested in making sure that Hezbollah and other Iranian-backed terror groups are not able to use a power vacuum on the Syrian side of the Golan to set up a base near the border for attacks against Israel.