Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke out against Israeli airstrikes against Iran-linked sites in Syria on Monday, saying Jerusalem should instead provide Moscow with intelligence about such threats so that it can “neutralize” them.
“If Israel is really forced to respond to threats to the Israeli security coming from the Syrian territory, we have told our Israeli colleagues many times: if you see such threats please give us the information,” Lavrov said at a press conference, according to the Kremlin’s Sputnik news site.
The comments came less than a week after Israel reportedly launched a large series of major airstrikes on Iran-linked targets in eastern Syria. In the past, Russia has used far harsher language to reproach the Israel Defense Forces for its airstrikes against Iranian and Syrian targets in Syria.
The Russian foreign minister added that Moscow did not want Syria to be the battlefield for an Israeli-Iranian war.
“So, our dear Israeli colleagues, if you have facts that your state is facing threats from the Syrian territory, report the facts urgently and we will take every measure to neutralize the threat,” Lavrov said.
Russia has deployed a large military presence in Syria to support dictator Bashar Assad through his country’s brutal civil war. In order to prevent unwanted clashes, Jerusalem and Moscow have maintained a so-called deconfliction mechanism, which has allowed the two countries to effectively communicate with one another and avoid altercations.
This mechanism has been generally successful, with the notable exception of an incident in September 2018, in which a Russian spy plane was shot down by a Syrian anti-aircraft missile that had been fired in response to an Israeli attack. Moscow blamed Israel for the deaths of the troops on board the aircraft, saying Israeli planes had hidden behind the Russian aircraft, a charge that the IDF fiercely denied.
Though they both backed Assad through the Syrian civil war, Russia and Iran do not always see eye to eye on the future of the country. Moscow is generally seen as hoping to rebuild and stabilize Syria, something Tehran threatens to upset by launching attacks on Israel from Syrian territory.