Netanyahu, Putin to Meet in Wake of Syria Friendly Fire Incident

middle east
AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Alexei Druzhinin, Presidential Press Service

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin will be held soon to enhance coordination in Syria after the accidental downing of a Russian reconnaissance plane heightened tensions.

The Israeli leader has been trying to soothe relations with Russia since the incident. Russia blamed Israel for the shootdown and responded by supplying Syria with sophisticated S-300 air defense systems.

Mr. Netanyahu revealed he had spoken with Putin and the two agreed “to meet soon in order to continue the important inter-military security coordination”.

Netanyahu again pledged to stop “Iran from establishing a military presence in Syria and to thwart the transfer of lethal weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon”. He was speaking ahead of his weekly Cabinet meeting.

For several years, Israel and Russia maintained a special hotline to prevent their air forces from clashing in the skies over Syria. Israeli military officials have previously praised its effectiveness but it failed last month, leading to the loss of a Russian Il-20 reconnaissance aircraft and the 15 aircrew aboard.

Israel expressed “sorrow” for the Russian deaths, but insisted the Russian plane had been felled by “extensive and inaccurate Syrian anti-aircraft (surface-to-air missile) fire”.

Russia’s dramatic entry into the Syrian civil war in 2015 in support of the Syrian government, after a year of airstrikes by the U.S. and its coalition partners against the Islamic State group, increased the specter of dangerous confrontations in the skies over Syria.

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