Iran must be prevented from producing nuclear weapons and from placing military bases in Syria, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Russian counterpart, Dimitry Medvedev, on Thursday.
Netanyahu spoke about the dangers facing Israel and the Middle East, with a focus on Iran, ISIS and radical Islamic terrorism, during an afternoon meeting with Medvedev in his Jerusalem office.
The Russian prime minister is in Israel for a brief visit as part of a year of events marking the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
The desire for increased cooperation comes as Israel and Russia have stepped up coordination of military activities, particularly with respect to operation of their respective air forces in Syria.
Russian and Israeli leaders have met many times in the past two years in an effort to avoid military crises in Syria, where Russia is heavily involved in the fighting. In the past year, Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin have met four times.
For Thursday’s meeting, security issues were foremost on Netanyahu’s agenda. “The security coordination is of great importance. And I welcome the coordination that we do on an ongoing basis and from time to time in my meetings with President Putin. It reflects the tremendous change in our relationship,” he said.
Medvedev responded that coordination has been raised to a new level.
“We face common challenges, primarily terrorism,” he said.
Netanyahu and Medvedev discussed Iran and the 2015 deal that six world powers, including Russia and the United States, struck with Tehran to limit its nuclear capacity.
During his campaign, US President- elect Donald Trump promised to tear up the document, with Israel Radio reporting on Thursday that one his advisers already said Trump would make changes to the agreement.
Netanyahu, who campaigned against the deal, brought up the danger of a nuclear Iran.
“We are determined to do two things; the first is to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons,” he said. “Iran has espoused the destruction of Israel and supports terrorism on five continents.”
Netanyahu repeated that Iran must also be prevented from placing military bases in Syria under any circumstances, whether or not it attempts to do so as part of a cease-fire arrangement in Syria.
Iran, he added, must be prevented from establishing “Shi’ite militias, which it is organizing, and of course the arming of Hezbollah with dangerous weapons aimed at us.”
Moving to ISIS, Netanyahu spoke of the need for a joint partnership between United States, Russia, Israel and other interested parties, to eradicate the terror group.
“That goal would serve all of us and humanity,” he said.
“We would like to take advantage of the great opportunities of the new world, but there are those who would like to take us backward to the old world of the dark and murderous Middle Ages. We are partners in the war on radical Islamic terrorism.”
Netanyahu also thanked Russia for agreeing to help Israel secure the release of three Israeli citizens held in Gaza, and the return of the bodies of Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, soldiers killed during the 2014 Gaza war.
Medvedev began his three-day trip to the region with a visit to the Western Wall on Thursday where he was welcomed by Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch.
Prior to his arrival, Medvedev told Channel 2, “Our country has never denied the rights of Israel or the Jewish people to Jerusalem, the Temple Mount or the Western Wall.”
He later visited President Reuven Rivlin at his residence.
Rivlin told Medvedev that Russia always had a significant role in the region, and now, more than ever.
On Friday, Medvedev is due to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Jericho.
In September, Russia proposed to host a meeting between Abbas and Netanyahu, but the proposal has not yet come to fruition.
During the visit, Russia and Israel are scheduled to sign four bilateral trade agreements covering the areas of customs, high-tech, agriculture and construction.
Also on Thursday, Russian Deputy Agriculture Minister Sergey Levin and Israeli Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel signed a longterm roadmap for collaboration between the two countries’ agricultural sectors. The two-year agreement focuses on the dairy industry, with an emphasis on establishing farms in Russia based on Israeli know-how, a statement from the Agriculture Ministry said. The plans include a collaborative pilot project involving advanced Israeli dairy farming technologies, according to the ministry.
Plans have been made to cooperate on drip irrigation and storage and preservation of agricultural produce, the statement said.
Under the agreement, Israel will establish a wholesale and retail center in Russia for implementing Israeli expertise. A budgetary assessment of the agreement amounts to billions of shekels, the ministry said.
In parallel with these collaborations, the Russian State Agricultural University and the Israeli Agriculture Ministry’s Volcani Center will pursue professional partnerships and an exchange of knowledge.
Medvedev and the Russian delegation on Thursday toured some of Israel’s latest agricultural research and development projects while at the Volcani Center on the Agriculture Ministry’s Agricultural Research Organization campus in Beit Dagan.
One display shown to the Russian prime minister included a “spray robot,” an automated device able to spray pesticides, streamlining the process and reducing human exposure to harmful chemicals.
The robot is expected to be available in about three to five years, the Volcani Center said.
Another innovation exhibited was a near-infrared machine that measures the amount of sugar in apples while the fruits are in packing houses. The device helps vendors price and market fruits correctly.
A simulator for remote sensing of airborne systems that uses thermal imaging to monitor crop irrigation was also viewed.
Volcani Center scientists presented several dairy sector innovations.
One technology shown is capable of detecting lameness in cattle, thus preventing severe scoliosis which often results from the condition and decreases milk production.
Another item displayed was a real-time sensor that tracks a cow’s food intake.
The Russian delegation also saw varieties of wheat fine-tuned for growth in Israel, and met with researchers developing methods to shield grains from insects without the use of harmful pesticides.Greer Fay Cashman contributed to this report.