Putin: Netanyahu to visit Kremlin for defense talks

Israeli president meets counterpart in Moscow days after surprise pullout from Syria announced; both leaders hail strong ties

Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomes his Israeli counterpart Reuven Rivlin during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, on March 16, 2016. (AFP/POOL/Maxim Shipenkov)
Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomes his Israeli counterpart Reuven Rivlin during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, on March 16, 2016. (AFP/POOL/Maxim Shipenkov)

Hosting Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in Moscow on Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would also visit soon for regional security and trade talks.

Putin said Russia and Israel “have a large number of questions to discuss linked with the development of bilateral trade and economic relations and questions of the region’s security,” according to Russian reports. “I hope that we’ll be able to discuss them in the short run with the Israeli prime minister with whom we have made arrangements for a meeting,” he added.

Regarding a future Putin-Netanyahu confab, an Israeli official told The Times of Israel that “over the last few months we had regular contact with the Russians at the highest level, and that will continue.” The official assumed that there will be a meeting sometime soon.

Rivlin was the first foreign leader to meet with Putin since news of Russia’s surprise pullout from Syria, announced Monday. The Israeli president on Tuesday had said he would ask Putin about the military withdrawal during their meeting.

The two leaders hailed ties between Russia and Israel in a joint press conference ahead of their meeting.

“The ties between our countries are based on friendship and mutual understanding,” Putin said. “We spoke on a variety of issues during our meeting, and we also spoke by phone with the prime minister and agreed to revisit these topics again.”

Putin noted Israel’s sizable Russian minority, and hailed the growing tourism between the two countries.

In his remarks, Rivlin told Putin the Jews would never forget how Russia saved them in World War II, adding that “many Holocaust survivors all over the world remember being liberated by the Red Army.”

“Today, we also both face terror and fundamentalism,” Rivlin said, and urged greater bilateral cooperation between the two countries in various areas.

The two leaders were slated to hold a short private meeting before a working dinner, both of which were closed to the press.

On Tuesday, Rivlin said he intended to discuss the implications of Russia’s sudden military disengagement from the Syrian civil war.

“We want Iran and Hezbollah not to emerge strengthened from this entire process,” Rivlin told reporters during the flight to Russia on Tuesday. “Everybody agrees that the Islamic State organization is a danger to the entire world, but Shiite Iranian fundamentalist Islam is for us just as dangerous.”

A senior Israeli official said on Tuesday that while Israel understands Russia’s interests in the region, it has yet to fully account for Putin’s surprise partial pullout from Syria.

Israel has also been anxiously watching reports that Moscow is about to deliver sophisticated S-300 missile defense batteries to Tehran.

During Rivlin’s two-day trip to Russia, which coincides with the 25th anniversary of the restoration of diplomatic ties between the two countries, the president will also meet with the local Jewish community and visit Russian and Jewish cultural sites.

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