Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was accompanied by some of his top generals as he arrived in Moscow on Monday to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Russia’s presence in the region continues to grow. Recently, Moscow finalized a weapons systems deal with Iran, and it continues to prop up the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
“Over the last number of years, and even more so over the last few months, Iran and Syria are arming the radical Islamic terrorist organization Hezbollah with advanced weaponry that is directed at us, and has already been fired at us,” Netanyahu said after his meeting with Putin.
“For these reasons I thought it was very important to come here, both in order to make clear our positions, and also to ensure that there will not be any misunderstandings between our forces,” he added.
Putin responded, saying he understood Israel’s position and that the two countries will continue to maintain open communications.
In a sign that showcases the magnitude of the meeting between the two heads of state, Netanyahu was joined by his top generals, which is not typical for his foreign visits, The Jerusalem Post reports.
The meeting between Netanyahu and Putin lasted approximately three hours and was closed off to the press, according to reports.
Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot’s mission is to ensure that Russian and Israeli forces do not engage in battle in the region, specifically in the Syrian port city of Latakia, according to the report. Military Intelligence chief Major Gen. Herzl Halevi, who is also accompanying Netanyahu on the trip, had been tasked with tracking Syria’s weapons deliveries to Hezbollah.
An unnamed government official told The Jerusalem Post, “Over the years we have raised our concerns about the transfer of Russian military equipment to the region, where Russian equipment ends up in Hezbollah’s hands. Unfortunately over the last two years we have seen an increase in the weapons reaching Hezbollah.”
But likely atop Netanyahu’s mind is the imminent transfer of Russian S-300 air defense batteries to Iran. Such a move would harden Tehran’s defensive capabilities and would make a military strike on its nuclear facilities much more difficult, analysts have said. Russia is expected to deliver the surface-to-air missile systems before the end of 2015, according to Iranian regime officials.
The Kremlin released a statement regarding Putin and Netanyahu’s meeting. “Bilateral cooperation matters and current international affairs will be the main subjects of discussion,” said the Kremlin press release. “In particular, Mr Putin and Mr Netanyahu will exchange views on the Middle East peace process and the fight against the global terrorist threat,” the statement added.
The meeting between Netanyahu and Putin was the first between the two since November 2013, before Russia invaded Ukraine and annexed the Crimea.