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Lapid departs for Moscow for talks with Russian FM

Foreign minister’s first meeting with Sergey Lavrov follows reports of tensions in Israel-Russia relationship over Syria policies

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid heads a Yesh Atid faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on August 2, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid heads a Yesh Atid faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on August 2, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid departed for Moscow on Wednesday night for a snap visit, his office said.

He will meet Thursday with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov. The two will also hold a joint press conference, according to a Foreign Ministry statement, which did not say what the two were set to discuss. Lapid will also meet with Israeli diplomatic staff at the embassy.

The meeting will be Lapid’s first with Lavrov since becoming foreign minister in June.

The trip comes following 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 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. It rarely acknowledges or discusses such operations.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks during a meeting in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021 (Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service via AP)

Russia has waged a military campaign in Syria since 2015, helping Assad’s government reclaim control over most of the country after a devastating civil war. Moscow also has helped modernize Syria’s military arsenals and train its personnel.

Early Friday, the Israeli Air Force struck and destroyed a Syrian missile battery that had launched a missile that exploded near central Israel.

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