Netanyahu-Putin summit scheduled for February 21

Netanyahu announces his upcoming trip to Russia, saying that efforts must continue to prevent Iranian entrenchment in Syria. 

By David Jablinowitz, World Israel News

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Tuesday that he would be meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on February 21. The two leaders have had several encounters, in addition to reported phone conversations, predominantly concerning the situation in Syria.

However, the scheduled summit later in February would be the first official meeting in months.

Speaking to reporters as he welcomed the visiting Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen, Netanyahu said that “it’s very important that we continue to prevent Iran from [becoming] entrench[ed] in Syria. In many ways, we’ve blocked that advance but we’re committed to continuously blocking it, continuously preventing Iran from creating another war front against us right here opposite the Golan Heights.”

The prime minister said that he and Putin had spoken briefly in Paris three months ago but have not held a full meeting since July, before a Russian military plane was downed by Syrian air defenses in September, an incident for which Moscow said that Israel was ultimately to blame.

A senior Iranian defense official warned on Tuesday that his country will hit back at Israel if the Jewish state continues to carry out airstrikes in Syria.

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Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s National Security Council, made the threat as he held talks with visiting Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem in Tehran.

Iran fired a surface-to-surface missile into the Golan Heights from Syria last month in response to one of a number of Israeli air strikes on what Jerusalem says are Iranian targets north of the border as Tehran transports shipments to its proxies, including Hezbollah.

Netanyahu, who is also foreign minister and defense minister, is continuing with his intense diplomatic and defense schedule even as his ruling party, the Likud, was holding a primary election Tuesday to determine the party’s list for the April 9th Knesset ballot.

The primary is for the number two position on down the party list with Netanyahu maintaining the top spot, though he is faced with the uncertainty over whether Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit will announce before the April election that Netanyahu is to be indicted for alleged corruption.