Russia / Mideast

Despite talks, Russia, Israel hold firm to their interests

Article Summary
In a meeting in Moscow, Russian officials seek more information from Israel before it attacks targets in Syria as part of an ongoing "deconfliction" process.

The Russian and Israeli militaries recently held their first meeting in months to discuss Iran and Israeli strikes on Hezbollah targets but both remained committed to their own policies on the issues.

According to the press office of the Israeli army, the Moscow meeting revolved around the topic of possible improvements in their structure to reduce conflict (deconfliction) in Syria. Created in 2015 to prevent air incidents, the structure seemingly functioned fairly well for almost two years. However, the Sept. 18 Il-20 tragedy showed the mechanism is by no means flawless.

Russian military leaders were generally concerned about Israel’s attacks in Syria, though they were not able to change anything; still, the nations pledged to continue cooperation in the deconfliction process.

Taking advantage of the incident, for which Moscow blamed Israel exclusively even though the Il-20 was brought down by a Syrian missile, the Russians requested more advance knowledge about Israel’s incursions. According to the Yediot Ahronot newspaper, during the meeting the Russians once again demanded that the Israelis, as part of the deconfliction mechanism, increase the lead time for warnings for operations and provide more details about the targets. Israel objected to these demands.

However, the press office of the Israel Defense Forces said that “the meeting resulted in an agreement to continue the cooperation.” In general, this means that Moscow will not hamper Israel’s military strikes in Syria, as in the past — even though Russia is now supplying the Syrian government with the S-300 antiaircraft missile system — or at least unless this does not contradict Russia's interests. Thus, Israel will have to be as cautious as possible.

Russia’s overall attitude toward the situation in Syria has not changed.

“Our position remains the same. We cannot appreciate chaotic targeting by the Israeli air forces of Syrian infrastructure facilities under a far-fetched excuse of an Iranian threat,” a source close to the Defense Ministry of Russia told Kommersant newspaper in the run-up to the meeting. Once the Russian-Israeli military meeting took place, the Russian and Iranian foreign ministers had their own phone conversation. Russia is strict about retaining a fine balance between its partners in the region.

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Found in: hezbollah, il-20 reconnaissance plane, s-300, iranian-israeli conflict, russia-iran relations, russian-israeli relations, syrian civil war, moscow

Marianna Belenkaya writes on the Middle East for the Russian daily Kommersant. An Arab studies scholar with almost 20 years of experience covering the Middle East, she served in the Russian Foreign Ministry’s press pool from 2000 to 2007 as a political commentator for RIA Novosti and later became the first editor of the RT Arabic (formerly Rusiya al-Yaum) website, until 2013. She has written for the Nezavisimaya Gazeta, the Russian Profile Magazine and Al-Hayat and is now a regular contributor to the Carnegie Moscow Center. On Twitter: @lavmir

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