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Russia-Israel talks on Syria military coordination to open Tuesday

Russian army delegation arrives for two days of talks on how to avoid confrontation in neighboring war-torn country

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot (L) meets with the Russian army Chief of Staff Valery Grasimov in Moscow, Russia, on September 21, 2015 (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot (L) meets with the Russian army Chief of Staff Valery Grasimov in Moscow, Russia, on September 21, 2015 (Israel Defense Forces)

A senior Russian delegation of army officials was due in Israel on Tuesday for talks on military coordination in Syria.

The summit was announced last month, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot visited Moscow for discussions on the ongoing Syria crisis and increased Russian intervention.

Eisenkot met with his Russian counterpart Valery Gerasimov in Moscow, after Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin also met in the Russian capital.

The two military chiefs agreed to set up a work group which will establish a mechanism of cooperation between the two armies.

Israel has voiced its concern over possible military confrontation between Jerusalem and Moscow in Syria, as Russia announced it was stepping up its military support for Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Israel has also watched warily as Russia sent arms to Syria to bolster the Assad regime, some of which Jerusalem fears may reach arch-foe Lebanese Hezbollah and be used in deliberate attacks against Israel from the Syrian side of the Golan Heights.

Israel is also said to be behind a number of air strikes — some confirmed, other not — over the past several years aimed at preventing advanced weaponry — Iranian or other — from reaching Hezbollah in neighboring Lebanon via the Syrian army and scuttling planned attacks against Israel from the Syrian side of the Golan Heights.

Late last month, Israel confirmed it had carried out air raids on Syrian army targets after a series of stray rockets struck the Israeli side of the Golan Heights. In August, the IDF launched its heaviest bombardment thus far in Syria, carrying out strikes on 14 targets including a Palestinian Islamic Jihad cell Israel says was directed by Iran to fire rockets into Israel.

The Russian delegation to Israel will be led by First Deputy Chief of General Staff General Nikolai Bogdanovsky, who will meet his Israeli counterpart, Deputy Chief of Staff Major-General Yair Golan.

“The two will meet at military command headquarters in Tel Aviv as part of the two-day visit of the Russian army delegation to Israel. Among other matters, they will discuss regional coordination issues,” an Israeli officer told Reuters on Monday.

Russia has deployed 28 combat planes in Syria, US officials said last month, confirming the latest move in Moscow’s increasing military presence in the war-torn nation.

Washington has expressed growing concern over Russia’s increasing military presence in Syria to support Assad.

The United States has warned that Russian military backing for the Syrian regime only risks sending more extremists to the war-torn country and could further hamper any effort at bringing peace.

Russia recently started carrying out its own air strikes against the Islamic State terror group.

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