Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said that Iran and its nuclear capabilities pose a threat to the entire world, after meeting his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Moscow on Thursday.
Lapid traveled to Moscow on Wednesday evening to meet with Lavrov, ahead of a meeting slated for October between Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Speaking at a joint press conference, Lapid said that "Iran's march towards a nuclear weapon is not only an Israeli problem, It's a problem for the entire world," and that the message conveyed to Iran must be strong and clear.
"The world needs to stop Iran from getting a nuclear capability, no matter the price. If the world doesn't do it, Israel reserves the right to act," Lapid said.
"Unfortunately, there won't be stability in Syria, or in the wider Middle East, while there is an Iranian presence," Lapid said. "Iran is the world's number one exporter of terror."
Lapid added that Israel will not sit by idly while Iran entrenches itself on the northern border, adding that "We of course recognize that Russia has key interests in the region. That is why we formed the military deconfliction mechanism – which is both necessary and effective."
On his part, Lavrov told Lapid that while he was greatly pleased to welcome Lapid to Moscow and praised Russia and Israel's "mature, advanced, and trustful" relationship, he also added that Russia is obligated to help Syria protect its sovereignty.
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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.
Lapid added during his address, though, that Russia-Israel relations go beyond threats and wars, and encompass economics, culture, tourism, energy and science as well – connections that can still be strengthened. As the world is stricken by the coronavirus, he said, we must find new ways to do business and develop cultural and trade ties. "Israel and Russia do not always have the same interests," Lapid said, "but the friendship between our peoples is stronger than ever.