Sunday, October 7, 2018

PM to meet Putin 'soon' for first time since Russian plane downing - Daniel Siryoti, News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff

by Daniel Siryoti, News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff

Russia: Syria has right to defend itself.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday he will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin soon to discuss continued security coordination on Syria.

Netanyahu made the announcement at the weekly cabinet meeting, but did not give a date for the talks, which will be the first meeting between the two leaders since Syrian air defenses shot down a Russian spy plane last month while trying to intercept Israeli jets.

Meanwhile, Russia has allegedly launched "calm efforts to open communication channels between Tel Aviv and Tehran with an aim to lower tension and prevent a possible confrontation between the two sides in Syria," the London-based pan-Arab newspaper  Asharq Al-Awsat reported on Friday.

"We agreed to meet soon to continue the important security coordination between our armed forces," the prime minister said.

"Israel will constantly act to prevent Iran from entrenching itself militarily in Syria and transferring deadly weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon," he added.

A Russian source speaking to the paper said his country was considering its role as a mediator between the two sides in that regard, particularly in the wake of Russia's delivery of the S-300 anti-aircraft system to the Syrian regime.

In Moscow, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said "Damascus has the right to defend its territories," adding that the delivery of S-300 missile system to Damascus aims to "promote stability and is not a provocative act."

Last Thursday, a senior U.S. general sharply criticized Russia's deployment of the S-300 surface-to-air missile system in Syria, saying it was a needless escalation and a knee-jerk response to last month's downing of a Russian military aircraft there.

Army General Joseph Votel, who oversees U.S. forces in the Middle East, said the deployment also appeared to be an effort by Moscow to help shield "nefarious activities" by Iranian and Syrian forces in the country.

The French Foreign Ministry also said on Friday it was "concerned" by Russia's delivery of the advanced anti-aircraft defense system to Syrian President Bashar Assad's army.

"France notes with concern the delivery by Russia of sophisticated anti-aircraft capabilities for the benefit of the Syrian regime," said a French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman. "Amid regional tensions, the delivery of such equipment by Russia contributes to maintaining the risk of military escalation and removing the prospect of a political settlement of the Syrian crisis," she said.

On Saturday, Turkey-backed rebel groups began to withdraw heavy weaponry from a demilitarized zone agreed by Turkey and Russia in the country's northwest, rebels said.

The Turkey-backed National Front for Liberation rebel alliance said in a statement the process of withdrawing heavy weapons had begun, but the fighters would remain in their positions within the demilitarized zone.

Under the deal agreed last month between Turkey and Assad's key ally Moscow, "radical" rebels will be required to withdraw by the middle of this month from the zone, and heavy weaponry must be withdrawn by Oct. 10.

The main jihadist group in the Idlib area, Tahrir al-Sham, formerly known as the Nusra Front, has yet to say whether it will comply with the agreement.

Daniel Siryoti, News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff


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