Liberman discusses Syria with Russian counterpart

Israeli ambassador to Russia: "We welcome Moscow’s activities in Syria"

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February 6, 2017 21:02
2 minute read.
Moscow

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman meets with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, January 26. (photo credit: ISRAELI EMBASSY RUSSIA SPOKESMAN’S OFFICE)

 
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Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman spoke by phone with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday morning, according to the Defense Ministry.

Liberman and Lavrov discussed the situation in Syria and the cease-fire negotiations taking place in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, between Russia, Iran and the United Nations.

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The two ministers also discussed reviving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

According to Russia’s TASS news agency, the Russian statement said that both sides “confirmed their willingness to develop multifaceted bilateral cooperation,” and that the conversation was initiated by Jerusalem.

Liberman and Lavrov scheduled to continue their conversation at the Munich Security Conference taking place later in February.

Russian and Israeli officials have met several times in the past year as involvement by both countries regarding Syria has increased. Russia has carried out military operations in Syria, and Israel has reportedly been responsible for several air strikes against Hezbollah targets in the war-torn country.

As a result, the two have implemented a system to coordinate their actions in order to avoid accidental clashes.

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Up until the Russian intervention in Syria, Israel enjoyed air superiority in the Middle East. Since then, the Russians are said to have breached Israeli airspace on several recent occasions.

Israel’s policy is to immediately shoot down any aircraft that penetrates its airspace, but it has not done so with Russian aircraft.

In a recent interview with The Jerusalem Post, Ofer Fridman, a visiting research fellow at the department of war studies at King’s College in London, said that “there are two different games on two different levels that the Kremlin plays in the region. The cooperation with Iran in support of [Syrian President Bashar] Assad is strategic, while the military coordination with Israel is of a tactical nature.

“Russian military presence in the Middle East is definitely a reason for concern, but not for panic” as “both sides are not interested in mistakes and, therefore, there is true coordination and cooperation that is based on mutual respect out of interest,” Fridman added.

According to Russia’s TASS News agency, Israeli Ambassador to Russia Gary Koren said Israel welcomes Moscow’s activities in Syria.

“We highly value Russia’s activities in Syria,” said Koren, speaking at a meeting earlier this month in Moscow with the head of Russia’s upper house of parliament committee on international affairs, Konstantin Kosachev. “As far as peacemaking is concerned, cease-fire and humanitarian aid deliveries are welcome. Israel stands for putting and end [to violence] as soon as possible.”

According to TASS, Kosachev was recently invited to Israel by Avi Dichter, chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, in order to hold a joint meeting of Russian senators and Israeli lawmakers.

The meeting is reportedly set for April or May.

But, as an ally of Assad, Moscow finds itself part of an alliance between Damascus and Tehran.

That alliance was made clear on Monday when Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, “All of you know that Russia enjoys warm relations with Iran. We do cooperate on a range of issues, and we do appreciate our economic ties which, we hope, will go further.”

Lavrov echoed the Kremlin’s statement, stressing that Tehran takes an active part in fighting Islamic State in Syria, and said he was “convinced that Iran must be part of our common effort if we evaluate potential contributors to such an alliance objectively.”

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