Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday to discuss Syria, Iran and other issues, according to statements from the two leaders’ offices.
The Russian statement said Putin invited Netanyahu to Moscow to participate in “celebrations to mark the 75th anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War,” or World War II. The day will be marked in Russia on May 9, 2020.
The call was initiated by Netanyahu, who took the opportunity to express condolences for the deaths of 14 Russian sailors, seven of them senior officers, in a submarine fire in the Barents Sea on July 1.
The Russian statement said the two discussed “Russian-Israeli cooperation on the Syria issue” following up on the trilateral meeting of national security advisers from Russia, Israel and the United States on June 25 — “in particular, the importance of further coordination between militaries.”
A short statement from the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem stated that the two men discussed “Iran, Syria, and relations between the countries.”
The phone call came as Iran announced that it would consider going to 20 percent or higher uranium enrichment as its next step in rolling back the commitments it made under the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, rapidly bringing its program closer to weapons-grade levels.
Nuclear agency spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi confirmed in a state television interview Monday that Iran had surpassed the 3.67% enrichment cap set by the faltering deal. That development came a day after Iran announced that it would soon push past the 3.67% limit and possibly enrich uranium to any purity it desired.
The June 25 trilateral conference of Israeli, Russian, and US national security advisers was the first event of its kind to be held in Jerusalem and, according to Israel, was aimed specifically at countering Iran, including both its nuclear aspirations and its influence throughout the Middle East.
At the meeting, Russia’s national security adviser, Nikolai Patrushev, spoke out on behalf of Iran, backing Tehran’s claims against the United States and supporting the Islamic Republic’s ongoing military presence in Syria, which Israel sees as a threat to its security.
Netanyahu told Patrushev ahead of the meeting that “Israel won’t allow an Iran that calls for our annihilation to entrench itself on our border, and we will do anything it takes to prevent it from obtaining nuclear weapons.”
Israel has long sought Russian backing for its demand that Iranian forces leave Syria upon the conclusion of the country’s civil war. Iran and its military proxies are helping the Syrian regime end the civil war but Israel is concerned that Tehran is using the opportunity to establish forward bases in Syria from which to attack the Jewish state.
Israel has vowed to prevent the entrenchment and has carried out numerous airstrikes in Syria against alleged Iran-linked military targets.
Russia, which maintains close ties to both Israel and Iran, is seen as a potential interlocutor between the West and Tehran.