Our Ties Helped Prevent Friction Between Armies, Netanyahu Tells Putin in Moscow

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Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu greet each other during their meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, February 27, 2019.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu greet each other during their meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, February 27, 2019.Credit: Maxim Shemetov,AP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin began their meeting Wednesday afternoon in Moscow, where the Israeli premier is holding a brief state visit. 

Netanyahu told Putin that "ties between us have prevent friction between our armies and contributed to security in the region." He also recounted that the two have had 11 meetings since September 2015.

Netanyahu went on to tell the Russian president that the biggest threat to the region emanates from Iran, and that Israel is determined to continue its attacks to prevent Tehran from entrenching itself in Syria.

>> Read more: Russia may call shots in Syria, but U.S. Mideast dominance remains unchallenged | Analysis

Putin responded by telling the Israeli premier that he is welcome in Russia, and accepted an invitation to hold a visit in Israel.

Later that day, Putin also accepted an invitation from Netanyahu to participate in the opening ceremony for a new monument in Jerusalem commemorating victims and survivors of the World War II Siege of Leningrad.

The two discussed regional affairs, the situation in Syria and the strengthening of the security coordination.

"I want to discuss our bilateral relations, which are excellent, thanks to the over one million Russian-speakers [in Israel] who have contributed an immense amount to Israel and have become part of us, bringing Russian culture to be part of Israeli culture," Netanyahu said.

"In addition, tourism is at an all-time high with 400,000 Russians visiting Israel every year and about 200,000 Israelis visiting Moscow every year. I have the honor to contribute somewhat to this statistic," the premier added. 

It is the first time the two leaders meet in Moscow since the downing of the Russian spy plane in Syria in September 2018.

After the incident, which Russia blamed on Israel, Netanyahu's bureau unsuccessfully attempted to organize a meeting with Putin during the Paris Peace Forum in November. According to reports from Russia, Putin declined to meet Netanyahu at the forum. The two ended up holding several talks on the sidelines of the event, which was hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron.

The prime minister will head back to Israel later Wednesday. Netanyahu had planned originally to return to Israel on Thursday, but cut his trip short. 

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit is expected to publish his decision this week on whether to file charges against Netanyahu. Mendelblit hopes to release the decision before the end of the week, about 40 days prior to the April 9 election.

Netanyahu pushed back his trip to Moscow last week, ahead of the anticipated merger of his main political rival, Benny Gantz, and Yesh Atid's Yair Lapid. The two leaders spoke on the phone on Thursday instead.

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