Russia’s Putin hosts Israeli PM Bennett

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Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday expressed hope that new Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will continue to follow in his predecessor’s footsteps in maintaining close and “trustworthy” ties with his country.

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Welcoming Bennett at the start of their first meeting in Russia’s Black Sea resort Sochi, Putin described Russian-Israeli relations as “unique”, adding that “our dialogue, our relationship depends on the very deep ties between our peoples.” “

Putin maintains a close personal relationship with former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has visited Russia repeatedly. On Friday, Putin pointed to Russia’s “business and trustworthy relationship” with Netanyahu’s government and expressed hope that Bennett’s government would follow a “policy of continuity” in Russian-Israeli relations.


Bennett praised the contributions made by his country’s 1 million Russian speakers and emphasized the “deep relationship between the two countries”, praising Putin for bringing them closer during his 20-year rule.

“I can tell you on behalf of the citizens of Israel that we consider you a true friend of the Jewish people,” Bennett said.

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Bennett praised the Soviet role in defeating the Nazis in World War II and talked about a new museum in Israel that honors Jewish soldiers who fought in the Allied armies, primarily the Red Army. The remarks probably resonated with Putin, who cherishes his country’s decisive contribution to victory in that war.

Russia and Israel have developed close political, economic and cultural ties that have helped both countries deal with delicate and divisive issues, such as the situation in Syria where Moscow, along with Tehran, sidelined the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. have make.

“We will also talk about the situation in Syria and efforts to stop the Iranian military nuclear program,” Bennett said at the start of his talks with Putin.

Putin said Russia was “making efforts to help restore and strengthen Syria’s statehood.” He said that despite some problems regarding the situation in Syria, “there is also common ground and opportunities for cooperation in the fight against terrorism.”

Israel sees Iranian incursions on its northern border as a red line, and has repeatedly said Iran-linked facilities and weapons convoys for Lebanese Hezbollah. The Iran-backed terrorist group has fought alongside Syrian government forces in the country’s civil war.

Russia has launched a military operation in Syria since 2015, which has helped Assad’s government gain control of much of the country. Moscow has also helped Assad modernize Syria’s military, including providing air defense systems and training its personnel.

Russia and Israel set up a military hotline to coordinate air force operations over Syria to avoid conflict. Israel frequently attacks Iranian-linked targets in Syria, while Russia has provided aid to the Syrian government.

In 2018, Russia-Israeli relations were severely tested by the downing of a Russian warplane by Syrian forces, which responded to an Israeli airstrike and mistook a Russian reconnaissance aircraft for an Israeli jet. All 15 members of the Russian crew died.

Moscow has also played a delicate diplomatic game of maintaining friendly relations with both Israel and Iran. In 2018, Moscow struck a deal with Tehran to keep its fighters away from the Golan Heights to accommodate Israel’s concerns about the Iranian presence in Syria.

Russia is one of the international parties that negotiated the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. The deal fell apart in 2018 after then-President Donald Trump withdrew. But the new US administration is now trying to revive agreements with other international powers – a move that Israel opposes.


Jack Jeffery contributed to this report from Jerusalem.


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