Days after Netanyahu vow, Russia rejects Israeli sovereignty over Golan

A senior Russian official on the downing of a Russian warplane in Syria: ‘Incidents happen.’

October 10, 2018 18:06
2 minute read.
Israel Syria border

IDF tanks are seen along the Golan Heights border with Syria. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Two days after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stood on the Golan Heights and declared that it will remain under Israeli sovereignty, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said changing the status of the plateau would be a violation of Security Council resolutions.

“The status of the Golan Heights is determined by the resolutions of the UN Security Council,” Lavrov was quoted by Tass as telling reporters on Wednesday. “To change this status bypassing the Security Council, I think, would be a direct violation of these resolutions.”

This public disagreement over the future of the Golan Heights comes following a setback in Israel-Russian ties triggered by last month’s Syrian downing of a Russian intelligence plane – which Moscow blamed on Israel – and Russia’s decision to supply Syria with S-300 advanced anti-aircraft missile batteries that limit the IAF’s maneuverability in Syrian skies.

On Monday, Netanyahu – speaking at the dedication of a restored 1,500-year-old synagogue on the Golan Heights – said, “As long as it is dependent on me, the Golan will remain under Israeli sovereignty. Otherwise we will get Iran and Hezbollah on the banks of the Kinneret.”

Netanyahu added, “I know that [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin understands my commitment to Israel’s security, and I know he also understands the importance I attribute to the Golan Heights.”

Lavrov’s comments appear to be a clarification of Russia’s position on the matter.

Meanwhile, Russia’s visiting deputy prime minister Maxim Akimov struck a relatively conciliatory tone during a speech Tuesday evening in Jerusalem, saying in reference to the plane incident that  “unfortunately, incidents happen.”

“In our very complicated and multi-polar world, any two countries that share a relationship may develop different approaches regarding global challenges, and unfortunately there are sometimes incidents… But now we feel the good spirit and strong will [of our] leaders to continue both cooperation in the socioeconomic sphere and political dialogue [regarding] the resolution of… difficult problems in the Middle East,” he said at the opening of a Russian-Israeli Chamber of Commerce just hours after meeting Netanyahu.

“Obviously, this is a very complex subject,” he added. “But we are concentrating on the economic and social agenda, and I hope that, in the future, additional [subjects] and efforts will be discussed by our leaders in order to resolve the political [issues].”

Akimov was in Jerusalem attending the 15th meeting of the Israel-Russia Economic Forum at the Foreign Ministry.

Netanyahu said on Sunday that he would shortly be meeting Putin – it would be their fourth meeting this year, but the first since the plane incident – but no date has yet been set.

Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday that it was too early to speak about a date. But on Tuesday, Tass Vladimir Shamanov, the chairman of the Duma’s defense committee and a former commander of the Russian Airborne Troops, said the two will meet “soon.”

He said “one of the issues will be to specify issues of air cooperation.” Putin and Netanyahu set up a deconfliction mechanism shortly after Russia became militarily engaged in Syria in 2015.

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