Netanyahu to meet Putin, return before Shavuot

Kremlin: Netanyahu to meet with Putin in Moscow on Tuesday; two leaders expected to discuss Russian-Syrian arms sale.

PM Netanyahu with Russian President Putin 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
PM Netanyahu with Russian President Putin 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will fly early Tuesday morning to the Black Sea coastal city of Sochi for a lightning meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and return before the onset of Shavuot later in the day, government officials confirmed on Monday.
Syria – and the announced intention of Russia to sell state-of-the-art anti-aircraft S-300 missiles to Damascus – is expected to be the focus of the talks.
Netanyahu will be accompanied on a small executive plane by his National Security Council head Yaakov Amidror, his military secretary Maj.-Gen. Eyal Zamir, and a few other senior officials from the Prime Minister’s Office.
Journalists were not invited to join Netanyahu, one of only a handful of times that the press has not been invited to join the prime minister on a trip abroad. Since returning to office in 2009, Netanyahu has made a few trips to Jordan, Egypt and one previous trip to Russia where journalists did not accompany him.
He was last in Moscow in 2010, and Putin paid a visit to Israel in June 2012, a month after winning his country’s presidential election.
The two leaders “will exchange views on key aspects of bilateral relations. It is expected that major attention will be paid to the current situation in the Middle East, first of all, in Syria,” the Russian news agency Itar- Tass said.
Netanyahu’s meeting with Putin comes just days after he returned from a five-day visit to China, which included a meeting with President Xi Jinping. It also comes just three days after Putin hosted British Prime Minister David Cameron in Sochi.
According to the UK’s Telegraph, Cameron came away “heartened” from those talks that focused on Syria, saying, “I was very struck in my conversations with President Putin that there is a recognition that it would be in all our interests to secure a safe and secure Syria with a democratic and pluralistic future and end the regional instability.”
Last week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry announced they would put together an international conference aimed at negotiating an end to the Syrian civil war.
The two are scheduled to meet again on Tuesday or Wednesday on the sidelines of an international conference in Sweden.
The Netanyahu-Putin meeting comes a week after The Wall Street Journal reported that Israel informed the United States that a Russian deal was imminent to sell S-300 advanced ground-to-air missiles to Syria.
The threat of such a sale is believed by some to be a Russian effort to deter the West from either intervening in the Syrian civil war or selling arms to the Syrian rebels.
Russia is Syrian President Bashar Assad’s main international backer, outside of Iran.
Over the last decade Israel has urged the Russians on numerous occasions not to sell “gamechanging” weapons systems to Iran and Syria.