FM Lapid to Make First Visit to Moscow Ahead of Putin-Bennett Meeting

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FM Yair Lapid, in June.
FM Yair Lapid, in June. Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said he would travel to Moscow on Wednesday evening to meet with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, ahead of a meeting between Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Russian President Vladimir Putin that is slated for October. 

Over the past two weeks, the Kremlin requested the meeting in preparation for the Bennett-Putin summit, according to sources.

The aim of Lapid’s visit is to discuss “strategic, security and diplomatic issues,” a diplomatic official said. Due to the limited time available as a result of the Jewish High Holidays, which begin Monday evening, Lapid will return to Israel immediately following the meeting with Lavrov, without holding other meetings or attending other events.

The visit to Moscow comes against the backdrop of reports of dissatisfaction on the Russians’ part with alleged Israeli attacks in Syria. On Friday, the Russian army, which provides aerial defense systems to Syria, reported that Syria had intercepted more than 20 missiles that were allegedly fired by Israeli aircraft during the night between Thursday and Friday. Two weeks ago, aerial defense systems in Syria intercepted 22 missiles in an attack attributed to Israel, according to the Russian army.

Israel views Iranian entrenchment on its northern frontier as a red line, and it has repeatedly struck what it says are Iran-linked facilities and weapons convoys destined for Lebanese Hezbollah. The Iran-backed militant group is fighting alongside Syrian government forces in the country's long-running civil war.

Russia has waged a military campaign in Syria since 2015, helping President Bashar Assad’s government reclaim control over most of the country after a devastating civil war. Moscow also has helped modernize Syria’s military, including providing Assad with air defense systems, and trained its personnel.

Last month, Lapid made a two-day visit to Morocco, the first by an Israeli foreign minister since 2003 and the first since Rabat and Jerusalem reached a deal last year to establish formal ties.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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