Netanyahu to Meet Putin's Special Syria Envoy Visiting Israel

Putin's Syria envoy and deputy foreign minister hold meetings with Israeli diplomats after weeks of tensions surrounding Syria in the wake of the U.S. decision to pull out of the war-torn country

Russia's Special Envoy to Syria Alexander Lavrentiev taking part in peace talks on Syria, November 2018.
\ MUKHTAR KHOLDORBEKOV/ REUTERS

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to meet on Tuesday Russia's special representative for Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev, and Moscow's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin, who arrived in Israel for a diplomatic visit. 

The two Russian officials met Monday with senior officials at Israel's Foreign Ministry and are also slated to hold meetings with officials in the Prime Minister's Office and the Defense Ministry on Wednesday. 

Their visit comes after weeks of tensions surrounding Syria, which Israel is afraid will pose a security threat now that U.S. troops are expected to leave the war-torn country.

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

Israeli officials have expressed their concerns in recent weeks that Jerusalem will be exposed to Iranian aggression following the American departure, but on Friday Russia's deputy foreign ministry assured that Moscow is committed to Israel's safety. 

In an interview with CNN, the deputy foreign minister stated that "We in no way underestimate the importance of measures that would ensure very strong security of the State of Israel. This is one of the top priorities." 

Earlier last week, Russia said that Israel should stop carrying out what it called arbitrary air strikes on Syria days after the Israeli air force targeted Iranian forces there. 

Israel, which regards Iran as its biggest threat, has repeatedly attacked Iranian targets in Syria and those of allied militia, including Lebanon's Hezbollah. 

"The practice of arbitrary strikes on the territory of a sovereign state, in this case, we are talking about Syria, should be ruled out," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said, in answer to a question from Russian news agency TASS about recent Israeli air strikes on Syria.