Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Tuesday that he will be traveling to Moscow in just over two weeks for a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The announcement came on the day satellite images were released showing that S300 missile defense systems Russia transferred to Syria after the downing of the spy plane were erected and nearly operational.
This will be the second meeting between the two leaders since Syria’s downing of a Russian intelligence plane in September, an incident Russia said Israel was indirectly responsible for and which strained Jerusalem-Moscow ties.
Netanyahu and Putin met briefly in Paris in November on the sidelines of ceremonies commemorating 100 years to the end of World War I.
Netanyahu’s announcement came as he greeted visiting Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen to his office.
“It’s very important that we continue to prevent Iran from entrenching in Syria,” Netanyahu said. “In many ways we’ve blocked that advance and we’re committed to continue blocking it, preventing Iran from creating another war-front against us, right here opposite the Golan Heights. This is the main subject I will be discussing with President Putin.”
Netanyahu said that he and Putin will also discuss ways to strengthen the de-confliction mechanism set up between the two countries to prevent any accidental engagement between their militaries in Syria.
The scheduled meeting on February 21 will be the 11th between the two men since Russia moved into Syria militarily in September 2015. The two men, who also speak frequently on the phone, met four times last year.
The visit is another in a list of scheduled or planned visits Netanyahu has on his calendar before the April 9 elections. He has already announced plans to attend a US-sponsored conference on the Mideast next week in Warsaw.
In addition, he is widely expected to attend the AIPAC conference in Washington in late March, and also meet with US President Donald Trump during that trip.
There have also been unconfirmed reports that Netanyahu plans to attend the Munich Security Conference
, which takes place February 15-17; visit India for a day later this month; and also fly to Morocco in late March.
Conventional wisdom holds that trips abroad during the campaign benefit Netanyahu, as they underscore his diplomatic achievements at a time when his opponents want to focus on the investigations against him.
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