Three Days After Kuntar Assassination: Putin and Netanyahu Speak on Syria

Two leaders agree to continue dialogue and cooperation on war against terror and other regional matters; call by Putin comes during visit in Israel by Ukraine president.

AP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the situation in Syria on the phone on Tuesday.

The phone call by Putin to Netanyahu took place three days after Lebanese terrorist Samir Kuntar was killed in Syria in an aerial strike, which was attributed to Israel.

The Kremlin and the Prime Minister's Office released almost identical statements after the conversation. The two leaders agreed the continue dialogue at various levels, including coordination in the war against terrorism between the two countries, as well as in other regional matters.

The Kremlin said Putin told Netanyahu there was no alternative to the launch of intra-Syrian negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations, as well as to a "continued and uncompromising fight" against Islamic State and other extremist groups acting in Syria.

Israel and Russia have a joint mechanism to coordinate military operations in Syria, and in particular concerning the use of Syrian airspace. The mechanism, headed by the deputy chiefs of staff on both sides, is meant to prevent confrontations.

The Kremlin spokesman said at a press conference earlier in the week that he did not know for certain if Israel had coordinated with Russia, or informed it in advance of the attack in which Kuntar was killed.

Netanyahu and Putin met about three weeks ago in Paris and agreed to increase the military coordination between the countries, after the shooting down of a Russian warplane by Turkey. The day after the two met, senior military officers from the two countries met too.

Meanwhile, Zvi Heifetz, Israel's ambassador to Moscow, said that Israel acknowledges Russia's interests in the region and supports it in its fight against global terrorism.

Israel supports Russia’s steps "to protect the world and civilization from a certain group of bloodthirsty extremists," he said during a meeting with Konstantin Kosachev, the chairman of the international committee of Russia’s Federation Council upper house of parliament on Tuesday.  "We have had such experience and we are ready to share it with our friends."

Putin's call came at the same time Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was making an official state visit to Israel, and only a few hours after Netanyahu met with Poroshenko in Jerusalem. The Prime Minister's Bureau said the timing of the call with Putin was set a few days in advance, and there was no connection between the call and Poroshenko's visit.