Russia to allow Israeli strikes on Syrian arms transfers, PM says
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Russia to allow Israeli strikes on Syrian arms transfers, PM says

After Kremlin meet, Netanyahu says ‘mechanism’ reached with Russian leader to prevent misunderstandings in Syrian fighting

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, September 21, 2015. (Courtesy Embassy of Israel in Russia)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, September 21, 2015. (Courtesy Embassy of Israel in Russia)

Israel and Russia agreed on a mechanism to avoid military confrontations between the two countries in Syria, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday after a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

“My goal was to prevent misunderstandings between IDF forces and Russian forces. We have established a mechanism to prevent such misunderstandings. This is very important for Israel’s security,” Netanyahu told Israeli reporters during a telephone briefing from the Russian capital.

“Our conversation was dedicated to the complex security situation on the northern border,” the prime minister said. “I explained our policies in different ways to try to thwart the deadly weapons transfers from the Syrian army to Hezbollah — action actually undertaken under the supervision of Iran.”

Netanyahu said that he told Putin in “no uncertain terms” that Israel will not tolerate Tehran’s efforts to arm Israel’s enemies in the region, and that Jerusalem has taken and will continue to take action against any such attempts. “This is our right and also our duty. There were no objections to our rights and to what I said. On the contrary: there was readiness to make sure that whatever Russia’s intentions for Syria, Russia will not be a partner in extreme actions by Iran against us.”

Ahead of their meeting, as they made statements to the press, Netanyahu told Putin that Iran and Syria have been arming Hezbollah with advanced weapons, thousands of which are directed at Israeli cities. “At the same time, Iran, under the auspices of the Syrian army, is attempting to build a second terrorist front against us from the Golan Heights.”

The prime minister told his Russian host that Israel’s policy is to prevent these weapons transfers “and to prevent the creation of a terrorist front and attacks on us from the Golan Heights.” Netanyahu came to the Kremlin to “clarify our policies, and to make sure that there is no misunderstanding between our forces,” he said.

Putin replied by saying that the Syrian army was too bogged down in its own civil war to deal with fighting against Israel.

“All of Russia’s actions in the region will always be very responsible,” Putin said. “We are aware of the shelling against Israel and we condemn all such shelling. I know that these shellings are carried out by internal elements. In regard to Syria, we know that the Syrian army is in a situation such that it is incapable of opening a new front. Our main goal is to defend the Syrian state. However, I understand your concern.”

He also said he remains mindful that many émigrés from the former Soviet Union live in Israel, which “has a special effect on our bilateral relations.”

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