MOSCOW - Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu landed in Moscow Wednesday afternoon and, just three hours later, was scheduled to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin in a last ditch effort to persuade Russia to take a tough line in the Iranian talks taking place at the same time in Geneva.

Uncharacteristically, Netanyahu did not speak to the press on the flight over, nor give any statements upon leaving Tel Aviv or arriving in Moscow.  

Russia has the closest relationship with Iran among the P5+1 states negotiating with Tehran, and Jerusalem considers an open dialogue with the Kremlin to be of utmost importance.

This is Netanyahu’s fifth visit to Russia since his return to power in 2009, and his meeting with Putin is expected to go beyond the interim agreement being worked out with Iran and deal with the situation in Syria, Russian arms sales in the Middle East,  and the diplomatic process with the Palestinians as well.

Netanyahu arrived in Moscow at a time when Putin’s stature in the Middle East and the international community has risen because of the deal he brokered to get Syrian President Bashar Assad to dismantle his chemical weapons.

Netanyahu’s visit was planned well before the Geneva talks were scheduled, but the fact that they are taking place on the same day give the meeting added urgency. Netanyahu is scheduled to first have a meeting with Putin that includes advisors from both sides, followed by a one-on-one discussion. They will then issue statements to the press, followed by dinner.

On Wednesday Netanyahu will brief senior Russian journalists and meet with the local Jewish leadership.  He is scheduled to fly back to Israel Thursday evening.

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