Contradicting Trump, Top Putin Adviser Says U.S. Drone Downed in Iranian Airspace

At first-ever trilateral meeting in Jerusalem, National Security Adviser Bolton says U.S. ready for Iran to engage in 'real negotiations'

Head of Iranian Revolutionary Guard's aerospace division looks at debris from a downed U.S. drone, Tehran, June 21, 2019.
Meghdad Madadi/TASNIM NEWS/AFP

Russia has military intelligence that shows that a U.S. drone was in Iranian airspace when it was shot down by Iran last week, Nikolai Patrushev, Secretary of Russia's Security Council, said on Tuesday in his opening remarks at a first-ever trilateral meeting with American and Israeli national security advisers in Jerusalem.

The U.S. claimed the drone was flying over international waters. Patrushev said evidence presented by the United States alleging Iran was behind attacks on ships in the Gulf of Oman was poor quality and unprofessional. 

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Also speaking in Jerusalem, U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton said President Donald Trump "has held the door open to real negotiations" with Iran on its nuclear program.

"All that Iran needs to do is to walk through that open door," Bolton said, ahead of talks with Israeli National Security Advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat and Secretary of the Russia's Patrushev on Iran and Syria.

Meanwhile, Iran's President Hassan Rohani said Tuesday the U.S. administration was lying about its intentions for dialogue with Iran, claiming the fresh round of sanctions announced Monday prove that. 

According to Bolton, "this meeting could not be more timely. We convene at a particularly critical moment in the Middle East, as the radical regime in Iran and its terrorist surrogates engage in yet more rounds of violent provocations abroad."

Netanyahu speaks as Nikolai Patrushev sits nearby during opening statements of a trilateral meeting in Jerusalem, June 25, 2019.
Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

"All around the Middle East we see Iran as a source of belligerence and aggression," he added. "Iran's provocations ... are the external manifestations of the central threat that Iran poses, namely its continued pursuit of deliverable nuclear weapons."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he "deeply values the strong relations that Israel has with both leaders and both countries," adding that "Our friendship with Russia has gotten stronger than ever these past few years."

"I believe there's wider basis for cooperation between the three of us. This summit represents a real opportunity to help advance stability in our region, and particularly in Syria," he said. "We’d like to see a peaceful, stable and secure Syria," Netanyahu added, calling for the removal of all "foreign forces that arrived in Syria after 2011."

It will "be good for Russia, good for the U.S., good for Israel and, may I add, good for Syria," he argued.

Netanyahu also said Israel has acted "hundreds of times" to prevent Iranian "entrenchment" in Syria. In his remarks, Patrushev said Israeli air strikes on Syria were undesirable. 

During a joint press conference with Patrushev on Monday, Netanyhau said that "security cooperation between Russia and Israel has already contributed much to the security and stability of our region and has made a fundamental difference in the situation in the region."

Netanyahu, who met with Bolton on Sunday, said the three-way meeting will "deal with Iran, of course, Syria and other obstacles to security and stability in our region, and we know that our region greatly needs it, especially now."

The prime minister has aspired to hold such three-way talks ever since Russia boosted its presence in the region, in search of closer cooperation toward the goal of reducing Iranian influence in Syria.

A diplomatic official told Haaretz that “this unprecedented meeting of two world powers with Israel, in Israel, underscores its global standing and sends a powerful message to the region, especially to our enemies. The meeting is a climax of many political steps, among them Netanyahu’s meetings with presidents Trump and Putin. These meetings created the opportunity for a historic meeting such as this, which will contribute a great deal to Israel’s security interests in the region.”

Jerusalem estimates the talks will continue past this week’s meetings, on the basis of principles that will be agreed upon there.

Russia is expected to ask the United States to recognize Assad’s renewed regime and lift global sanctions. Washington is expected to press in return for distancing the Iranians from Syria. Stronger European Union member states have rejected any recognition of Assad while others have demanded significant reforms before any discussion.

Israel believes that holding such talks in Jerusalem makes it a central regional partner in world powers’ discussions about their interests in Syria, and that this sends a public message to Iran’s leaders.

The Russians have thus far been ambivalent about Israel’s demands with regard to Syria. They have hoped that Israel would not disrupt efforts to stabilize Assad’s regime, but have not made any commitment to getting Iranian forces out of Syria.

Moscow has at times limited Israel’s military moves in the region through other means of coordination and deterrence. Such restrictions have especially grown since Syria’s downing of a Russian aircraft last year, during a confrontation with Israel, in which more than a dozen Russian servicemen lost their lives.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Netanyahu shakes hands with Bolton, as he chairs a trilateral meeting in Jerusalem, June 25, 2019.
Ronen Zvulun/Reuters