Netanyahu, Putin speak for second time in a week

Last Sunday, Netanyahu phoned Putin to express condolences over the crash of the Russian military plane that killed 92 people, including 60 members of the Red Army Choir.

December 31, 2016 21:36
3 minute read.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attend a news conference in Sochi. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on Saturday night with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the evolving situation in the Mideast, the second time the two leaders have spoken this week.

According to a statement put out by the Prime Minister’s Office, the two talked about regional developments “with an emphasis on Syria and a continuation of security coordination on that front, coordination that has already proven itself in the prevention of misunderstandings.”

The statement referred to a deconfliction mechanism set up between the two countries shortly after Russia became militarily active in Syria in the fall of 2015.

The Kremlin, in its brief read-out of the phone call, said it was initiated by Israel, and that in addition to discussing Syria, the two leaders also talked about the “Palestinian- Israeli peace process.”

Last Sunday, Netanyahu phoned Putin to express condolences over the crash of the Russian military plane that killed 92 people, including 60 members of the Red Army Choir.

Putin, meanwhile, included Netanyahu in the list of leaders he sent New Year’s greetings to this week.

According to the Kremlin, Putin “expressed confidence in the successful continuation in 2017 of joint efforts to enhance the entire range of Russian-Israeli relations and constructive cooperation in addressing regional and international issues in the interests of the friendly peoples of the two countries, and for ensuring peace, security and stability in the Middle East.”

Russia was one of the 14 countries that supported the anti-settlement resolution at the UN 10 days ago, but after the vote, issued a statement criticizing the way it was brought to the Security Council for a surprise vote just a day after Egypt pulled its own proposal on the matter.

“Our experience shows convincingly that a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is only possible through direct talks between Palestinians and Israelis without any preconditions,” that statement said. “It is with this aim in view that Russia has been working and will continue working as a member of the Middle East Quartet of international intermediaries to facilitate such negotiations. We would also like to reaffirm our readiness to host a meeting of the leaders of Israel and Palestine in Moscow.”

Russia’s Deputy Ambassador to Israel Alexander Dubrovin told Army Radio last week that Moscow had wanted the vote delayed, but was rebuffed on this matter by the other countries on the Security Council.

He also said that Moscow was not happy that the resolution focused primarily on the settlements.

Moscow also criticized US Secretary of State John Kerry’s speech on Wednesday, with NRG quoting a statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry as questioning the timing of Kerry’s harsh indictment of the settlement enterprise, saying that “narrow partisan interests” were involved.

The statement questioned why Kerry was making pronouncements about the Mideast diplomat process now, rather than in 2014 when the Washington-led negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority hit a standstill.

The Russian Foreign Ministry put out a read-out last Tuesday of a phone call between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Kerry a day before Kerry’s speech.

“Mr. Lavrov underscored the necessity of conditions for direct talks between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders and warned against the impact of the US domestic agenda on the Middle East Quartet and the UN Security Council. He spotlighted harmful attempts to use these platforms for the Democrats’ and Republicans’ bickering,” the statement read.

This statement reflected assertions made by Moscow in recent days that US President Barack Obama is taking steps in his waning days in office to “create problems” for President- elect Donald Trump. On Thursday, Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats as punishment for alleged Russian computer hacking in the US, a move slammed by Moscow, but which Putin said he would not respond to by expelling US diplomats in Russia, hoping instead to restore relations under Trump.

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