Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he told Russian President Vladimir Putin that a lack of coordination between Jerusalem and Moscow in the skies over Syria could lead to a conflict between the two countries.
“Either we coordinate between our militaries in order that we will not clash with each other — the two armies are very close to one another — or we come into conflict with each other,” Netanyahu said he told Putin in an interview with the Russian-language Channel 9 Wednesday.
“I said to him ‘I prefer that we coordinate against a clash.’ They call this in English ‘deconfliction.’ He said to me ‘I agree.’ And we coordinated,” he added.
Russia entered the Syrian civil war in 2015 in support of the regime of President Bashar Assad, carrying out bombing runs against rebel groups fighting against Damascus.
While Israel has rarely acknowledged carrying out airstrikes in Syria, a number of attacks against weapons transfers have been attributed to Jerusalem.
Netanyahu said shortly after Russia entered the war, he told Putin Israeli forces would continue to act against “the transfer of very dangerous weapons from Iran by way of Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon.”
Netanyahu also said that while the coordination between Israel and Russia has so far helped to prevent a clash, he meets often with Putin in order to ensure that the cooperation continues.
“Every few months we need to tighten the screws,” he said.
“We are truly concerned with preventing a clash between our militaries because this is something that is not just bad for us, but bad for Russia. And I am happy that we have succeeded in doing this.”
Despite the coordination between the two countries, reported Israeli airstrikes in Syria on weapons convoys have led to tensions between Jerusalem and Moscow.
Last month, Moscow summoned Israel’s ambassador to Russia, Gary Koren, to protest a reported Israeli strike that nearly hit Russian troops stationed in the area. Syria’s ambassador to the UN later said that Russia had changed its policy and no longer grants Israel freedom of action over Syrian skies.
Netanyahu subsequently denied reports Moscow had told Israel to end airstrikes in Syria, vowing that the IDF would continue attacking weapons convoys.
A number of airstrikes since have been attributed to Israel.
In the interview aired Wednesday, Netanyahu also said that he has told Putin that Russia’s alliance with Iran in the Syrian civil war will ultimately harm Russia.
“Iran is not only a threat to us, in the end it will also be a threat to you,” he said he told the Russian leader.
Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.