Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the ongoing civil war in Syria in a Wednesday phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russian officials said.
“Mr. Putin and Mr. Netanyahu discussed current bilateral cooperation matters, the situation with the Middle East peace settlement and the Syrian crisis,” the Kremlin said without elaborating.
The Kremlin said that the phone call, which came a day before Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas is scheduled to meet with Putin in the Russian resort town of Sochi, was initiated by Israel.
Abbas’s meeting with Putin in Moscow comes amid efforts by US President Donald Trump — who is set to visit Israel and the West Bank city of Bethlehem later this month in his first trip abroad as president — to revive the long-dormant peace process.
Palestinian envoy to Moscow Hafiz Nofal told the TASS news agency earlier this month that Abbas and Putin will discuss the results of the recent Arab League summit and the PA president’s meeting at the White House with Trump.
Both Netanyahu and Abbas have voiced support for Trump’s interest in reviving talks, although the two have also sought to cast blame on each other for the past lack of progress.
In an interview with the Israeli Russian-language Channel 9 earlier this month, Netanyahu said that he speaks with and meets often with Putin, first and foremost in order to prevent a clash between the two countries’ militaries while carrying out airstrikes in Syria.
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 its own airstrikes in Syria, a number of attacks against weapons transfers have been attributed to Jerusalem.
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.
Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.