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Bennett to travel to Russia next week to meet Putin, with Iran on agenda

PM invited to Sochi to discuss Tehran’s nuclear program and other regional issues with Russian president, amid reported tensions over Syria policies

Right: Prime Minister Naftali Bennett leads a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on October 5, 2021. (Alex Kolomoisky/Pool)
Left: Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a session of the 17th Russia-Kazakhstan Interregional Cooperation Forum via video link at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia, September 30, 2021. (Evgeniy Paulin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Right: Prime Minister Naftali Bennett leads a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on October 5, 2021. (Alex Kolomoisky/Pool) Left: Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a session of the 17th Russia-Kazakhstan Interregional Cooperation Forum via video link at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia, September 30, 2021. (Evgeniy Paulin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will travel to Russia next week for a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, his office said Tuesday.

Bennett’s office said the premier would take off for Sochi on Friday, October 22, adding that Putin extended the invitation.

“The two will discuss a series of diplomatic, security and economic issues involving both countries, as well as important regional matters, primarily Iran’s nuclear program,” the Prime Minister’s Office said.

It will be Bennett’s first meeting with the Russian leader since entering office.

Both leaders spoke last Thursday, when Bennett congratulated Putin on his 69th birthday.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid visited Moscow last month and met his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

The Walla news site later reported that during that meeting, Lavrov asked for Israel to push the United States to agree to hold trilateral talks on the ongoing conflict in Syria.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (left) makes comments to the press alongside his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, in Moscow, on September 9, 2021. (Shlomi Amsalem/GPO)

The report followed recent reports of tensions in the Israel-Russia relationship over policies toward Syria.

Israel’s freedom of action in Syria was seriously curtailed after Russia provided advanced S-300 air defense batteries to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces following a 2018 incident in which the Syrian army, aiming at Israeli jets, knocked a Russian plane out of the sky instead, killing all 15 people on board.

Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes inside Syria in the course of the country’s civil war, targeting what it says are suspected arms shipments believed to be bound for Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group, which is fighting alongside Syrian government forces. Israel rarely acknowledges or discusses such operations.

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