Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and sought to assuage Israel’s fears of a potential Iranian and Syrian aggression.
In Washington, a USA official said the Russian buildup has continued unabated, with 24 jetfighters arriving over the weekend, boosting the number of fixed-wing aircraft deployed at the Bassel al Assad global Airport to at least 28.
The visit by Netanyahu comes as the government of Russian Federation signals its continual backing of the embattled regime in Syria of President Bashar al-Assad.
During the meeting, Netanyahu expressed his concern that the regional security situation is becoming more and more complicated, adding that “Syrian army, with Iran’s support, is trying to create a second terrorist front against Israel in the Golan Heights”.
Netanyahu was expected to tell Putin that Israel will not accept any limits on its freedom to operate in Syria. “With that being said, I understand your concerns and I’m very happy you’ve come to discuss these issues in detail”.
Putin has said Russia’s actions in the Middle East would always be “responsible”.
Israel was said to be concerned about the possibility of inadvertantly trading fire with Russian forces based in Syria.
The United States, which is leading an global coalition in airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria, also is anxious about inadvertent interactions between Russian and U.S.-led coalition aircraft.
Netanyahu was accompanied by his army and intelligence chiefs in a rare step for an overseas visit that Israel said would focus on Russia’s maneuvering in the war-torn nation.
The Israeli-Russian talks come at a time when Moscow is pressing the United States to expand its ongoing military campaign against ISIL and other hardline rebel groups in Syria by cooperating with Assad.
Netanyahu stressed the fact that even though Russian Federation and Israel did not see eye to eye, the two countries are still able to respect one another. “Our policy is to thwart the flow of these weapons, and to prevent the establishment of a new terror front and attacks against us from the Golan”.
In the last few weeks Moscow’s role in the Syria crisis has grown rapidly with the Kremlin looking to set the tempo there suddenly.
“We’ve made clear both in public and in private that doubling down on supporting Assad is a losing bet”, said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.
Separately, a USA official said that U.S.-Israeli coordination allowed the allies to share classified technologies for identifying Russian aircraft over Syria: “We know how to spot them clearly and quickly”, the official said.