Close ties to both Russia and the United States are a critical component of Israel’s defense doctrine, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Sunday.
Speaking at the opening of the weekly cabinet meeting, the premier said he would meet this week with Russian President Vladimir Putin, ahead of the latter’s summit next week with President Donald Trump in Helsinki, Finland.
“(President Putin and I) meet from time-to-time in order to coordinate our security collaboration and to discuss regional developments,” Netanyahu said.
At the same time, the prime minister stressed that he is in ongoing contact with the US administration, and said that Israel’s ties with both countries always play an important role in securing Israel’s security, but especially at the present time, as the Syrian civil war appears to be winding down.
“I will make it clear, once again, that there are two principles of Israel’s policy: One, we will not tolerate any Iranian military presence in Syria – not near the border with Israel and not far away from it.
“Second, we demand that Syria… meticulously uphold the 1974 armistice agreement (that ended the Yom Kippur War),” he said.
Nevertheless, Netanyahu’s talks with Putin take place against the background of an unclear Russian policy vis-à-vis Israel’s number one foreign policy concern: Iran. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has hinted – but not said explicitly – in recent months that the Kremlin is sympathetic to Israel’s demand that Iranian forces leave Syrian territory following the conclusion of the seven-year civil war there.
More recently, however, Lavrov told Jordanian officials last week that it would be “absolutely unrealistic” to expect it to abandon its interests by completely pulling out of Syria. Notably, Russia and Iran have backed Syrian President Bashar Assad and provided military assistance to forces loyal to Assad. That aid has had an important affect in turning the war toward Assad.