Netanyahu, Putin Discuss U.S. Troop Withdrawal From Syria

Prime minister initially called Russian president to offer his condolences for deadly building collapse, and the discussion went on to include Syria, military and diplomatic collaboration between the countries

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Moscow, July 25, 2018.
\ MAXIM SHEMETOV / REUTERS

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin over the phone on Friday and the two discussed the situation in Syria. This was confirmed by both Netanyahu and the Russian embassy in Israel.

The embassy said on Twitter that Netanyahu initially called to offer his condolences to the Russian government and people for the apartment-building collapse at Magnitogorsk on December 31, which claimed the lives of over 30 people.

The embassy said that the discussion between Putin and Netanyahu focused on the situation in Syria, including the withdrawal of U.S. troops. The leaders emphasized defeating terrorism and advancing toward a political solution in Syria.

Both leaders confirmed a mutual focus on strengthening military and diplomatic coordination, and discussed some issues of the bilateral agenda. Netanyahu also said he stressed Israel is determined to continue its efforts to block Iran from establishing its presence in Syria.

>> If Trump is beholden to Russia, Israel faces dire danger in Syria | Analysis

This is the first time the leaders have spoken since Russia's Defense Ministry said last week that an airstrike in Syria attributed to Israel "directly endangered" two civilian flights.

Although Russia and Israel established a system to avoid friction between Israeli aircraft operating in Syria and Russian military planes in the area, a Russian aircraft was downed by Syrian anti-aircraft missiles during an Israeli airstrike in September.

>> Syria pullout: Israel left with false Russian promises and a volatile U.S. president | Analysis

The Russians blamed Israel for the mishaps, a claim that Israel vigorously denied. Russia announced it had delivered the S-300 air defense system to Syria in October following the incident.

Earlier this month, Netanyahu spoke by telephone with Putin and updated him on the details of Israel's efforts to destroy Hezbollah-built tunnels crossing from Lebanon into Israel.

The two agreed that security delegations from the two countries will meet soon and that a meeting between the leaders would be coordinated.