Liberman: ‘Israel appreciates Russia’s understanding of our security needs’

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman met in Moscow with his Russian counterpart for talks focusing on Israel’s border with Syria.

By: World Israel News Staff

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Thursday the two discussed the situation in southwestern Syria, along its border with Israel.

After the the meeting with Shoigu, Liberman said on his Twitter account that “Israel appreciates Russia’s understanding of our security needs and in particular the situation on our northern border.

“The dialogue with Russia will continue,” Liberman added.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday said foreign militias should leave southwestern Syria as soon as possible, state media outlet TASS reported.

Lavrov echoed comments he made earlier in the week when he said that only Syrian troops should be stationed in rebel-held Daraa province, a region adjacent to the Israeli border that has emerged as a flashpoint in a wider standoff between the Jewish state and Iran.

The Syrian government’s plans to recapture rebel-held parts of the region have raised Israeli concerns that its backers — Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah — could take up positions along the frontier.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned his government would not allow Iran to maintain a military presence anywhere inside Syria.

Russian news reports said Moscow wants to cut a deal that would see Russian military police deployed to areas near Israel. The agreement would envisage the pullout of all Iranian forces from the area and require Syrian rebels to surrender heavy weapons.

Meanwhile, Syria’s dictator Bashar al-Assad sought in an interview to minimize the extent to which his government receives support from Iran.

Assad said Iran’s presence in Syria was limited to officers assisting the army. Apparently referring to the May 10 attack by Israel, Assad said: “We had tens of Syrian martyrs and wounded soldiers, not a single Iranian” casualty.”

Israel destroyed dozens of Iranian military sites in Syria in May, after Iranian forces in Syria fired rockets at Israeli-held territory for the first time.

Asked if there was anything Syria could do to stop Israeli air strikes, he said the only option was to improve air defenses, “and we are doing that”. Syria’s air defenses were much stronger than before, thanks to Russia, he added.

A senior IDF officer said recently that Israel had knocked out about half of Syria’s air defences.