Netanyahu in Russia for talks focusing on security, Iran

It’s “not true” that Netanyahu’s meeting in Moscow with Putin is the first since September, the Israeli prime minister told reporters before boarding the plane at Ben-Gurion International Airport.

By Atara Beck, World Israel News

Netanyahu departed for Moscow on Wednesday morning for what several media outlets described as his first meeting with President Vladimir Putin since the downing of a Russian warplane in September by Syrian forces that were responding to an Israeli air strike. The Kremlin blamed Israel for the incident, which killed all 15 people aboard and threatened to derail close security ties between Russia and Israel.

It’s “not true” that Netanyahu’s meeting in Moscow with Putin is the first since September, the Israeli prime minister told reporters before boarding the plane at Ben-Gurion International Airport. The two leaders met briefly in November on the sidelines of a World War I Centenary ceremony in Paris, where they agreed to meet again – “and so we are doing it” –  he said.

Since then, Netanyahu continued, they held several telephone discussions concerning a number of issues but primarily focusing on the Iranian bases in Syria.

Until now, “collaboration between the Russian army and the IDF has succeeded, and we hope it will continue to succeed,” he said. “This is the main purpose of my trip to Moscow, among other issues.”

At the start of the talks, Russian President Vladimir Putin concurred that “it’s very important to discuss the situation in the region and security issues.”

“Ties between us have prevented friction between our armies and contributed to security in the region,” Netanyahu told Putin, noting that they had met 11 times since September 2015.

“The direct link between us is a vital component in preventing risks and friction between our militaries and contributes to security and stability in the region,” adding that the “greatest threat to stability and security in the region comes from Iran and its proxies. We are determined to continue our vigorous action against the attempts by Iran, which calls for our destruction, including its attempts to entrench militarily in Syria.”

‘Excellent’ bilateral relations

“Our bilateral relations are excellent, thanks to the over one million Russian-speakers [in Israel] who have contributed an immense amount to Israel…bringing Russian culture to be part of Israeli culture,” Netanyahu said.

Furthermore, “tourism is at an all-time high, with 400,000 Russians visiting Israel every year and about 200,000 Israelis visiting Moscow every year. I have the honor to contribute somewhat to this statistic,” he quipped.

Putin accepted an invitation from Netanyahu to visit Israel.

“We will never forget the roles played by Russia and the Red Army in defeating the Nazis,” Netanyahu told the Russian leader. “Approximately 500,000 Jews fought in the Red Army. Soon we will dedicate a memorial in Jerusalem to those who fell during the siege of Leningrad. Mr. President, I would like to invite you to be our guest of honor. No one is more deserving.”