Israel Warns Russia Over 'Dangers' Of Supplying Syria With Advanced Air Defenses
RFE/RL September 25, 2018
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned Russian President Vladimir Putin against delivering an advanced air-defense system to Syria, saying it will further destabilize the war-torn region.
After a call between the two leaders on September 24, Netanyahu's office said the prime minister told Putin that "transferring advanced weapons systems into irresponsible hands will increase the dangers in the region.
He also said that Israel "will continue to defend its security and its interests" by staging bombing raids on Iranian military targets in Syria."
Israel's statement came on the same day that U.S. national security adviser John Bolton warned that Russia's decision to supply Syria with an S-300 surface-to-air missile system was a "major mistake" and a "significant escalation" in Syria's seven-year civil war.
Israeli planes have carried out a number of deadly air strikes on Iranian military targets in Syria this year, largely undeterred by the Russian military presence there, apparently owing to close consultations between the Israeli and Russian militaries that Netanyahu's office said were reaffirmed during the phone call.
But last week, Russia for the first time challenged an Israeli incursion into Syria, blaming it in part for the downing of a Russian military plane that killed all 15 people on board.
Syrian air defenses mistakenly shot down the Russian Il-20 surveillance plane on September 17 following an Israeli bombing raid. Moscow claims the Russian plane was hit because Israeli pilots were using it as "cover."
Putin has described the incident as a "chain of tragic accidental circumstances."
The incident led Russia this week to announce new security measures to protect its military in Syria, including supplying the Syrian Army with an S-300 system and jamming radars of nearby warplanes.
Russia at an earlier stage in the war had suspended sending an S-300 system to Syria amid Israeli concerns that the missiles could be used against it.
But Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that "the situation has changed, and it's not our fault."
Netanyahu in the phone call with Putin continued to blame what his office called the "unfortunate incident" on "the Syrian military, which brought down the plane, and Iran, whose aggression is undermining stability."
Despite differing views of what happened, Netanyahu's office said the Russian and Israeli leaders "agreed to continue dialogue between professional teams and intermilitary coordination via military channels."
With reporting by AFP and Reuters
Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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