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THE TIES between Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have been characterized as straightforward, open and built on personal trust.(Photo by: REUTERS)
Netanyahu and Putin to meet soon for first time since crisis
Netanyahu announced the meeting, which will be the fourth between the two leaders this year, at the opening of the weekly cabinet meeting.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet shortly for the first time since relations were badly strained following last month’s Syrian downing of a Russian intelligence plane.

Netanyahu made the announcement at the start of Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting.

Russia blamed Israel for indirect responsibility in the downing of the plane, since it followed an Israeli attack on September 17 on an Iranian target near Latakia. As a result, Russia transferred S-300 advanced anti-aircraft missiles to Syria last week, significantly complicating Israeli maneuverability in Syrian airspace.

The Kremlin, which ordinarily puts out a readout of Putin’s calls with Netanyahu, only said that Netanyahu was one of the leaders who phoned Putin on Sunday to convey birthday greetings for his 66th birthday. It said nothing of a planned meeting.

The others who called, according to the Kremlin readout, were the leaders of Uzbekistan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan and Serbia.

Netanyahu said that he and Putin “agreed to meet soon in order to continue the important inter-military security coordination.”

The prime minister reiterated that Israel will “act at all times to prevent Iran from establishing a military presence in Syria and to thwart the transfer of lethal weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

Nevertheless, since the incident in mid-September, there have been no reports of Israeli action against Iranian or Hezbollah targets in Syria.

The Putin-Netanyahu meeting would be the fourth between the two men this year. The two last met in July in Moscow, just prior to Putin’s meeting with US President Donald Trump.

Netanyahu did not say where or when the meeting would take place. While this will be the first face-to-face meeting since the downing of the intelligence plane, the two men have spoken by phone several times since then.

In a related development, Russian Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Mikhail Bogdanov blamed Netanyahu for holding up a proposed meeting in Moscow with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Bogdanov said in a RIA Novosti interview that Moscow has over the years offered to host a Netanyahu-Abbas meeting without preconditions, and said that Netanyahu even asked the Russians to do so. He said that Moscow convinced Abbas to agree to a format, but that over the last two years, Israel balked at the idea.

Russia’s envoy to Israel Anatoly Viktorov said in an interview with the Post last month that Moscow’s offer to “facilitate direct contact” between Abbas and Netanyahu “remains on the table.”

“We expressed it two years ago,” he said. “President Putin is ready to take part in this possible meeting.”

Viktorov declined to comment on what – or who – was preventing the meeting. “In principle both (sides) are in favor – but every time some factors appear to prevent that meeting. It is important that this proposal is on the table,” he said.
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