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Putin to meet with Israeli premier Netanyahu in Sochi

This is Netanyahu’s third trip to Russia this year, which follows his visits to Moscow in February and April

MOSCOW, September 12. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Sochi on Thursday.

According to the Kremlin press service, "issues of further development of the bilateral cooperation are planned to be discussed, while opinions are expected to be exchanged on the situation in the Middle East."

This is Netanyahu’s third trip to Russia this year, which follows his visits to Moscow in February and April.

According to the Israeli premier, he plans to focus on "improving the mechanisms of military cooperation." Besides, his office named "regional issues and the situation in Syria" among topics to be raised at the talks. Israeli Ambassador to Moscow Gary Koren, in turn, said the two leaders may discuss organizing a trilateral meeting of Russia, the United States and Israel at the level of national security councils.

During the visit, the Israeli premier, who will be accompanied by head of the Jewish state’s national Security Council Meir Ben-Shabbat and Chief of General Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces Aviv Kochavi, also plans to meet with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

Deconfliction mechanism

In autumn 2015, in order to safeguard the two countries’ military from accidental clashes in Syria, Israel and Russia established a deconfliction mechanism and the Israeli General Staff set up a special coordination center to this aim.

On September 17, Russia’s Il-20 aircraft was accidently downed by Syrian air defenses over the Mediterranean Sea when it was returning to the Hmeymim airbase. Russian top brass said a missile from Syria’s S-200 system downed the aircraft when it targeted four Israeli F-16 fighter jets, which attacked facilities in Latakia. The Israeli Air Force and those who made the decision to use the Il-20 aircraft as cover are solely to blame for its crash, Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said.

Opening the trilateral Russia-US-Israel talks on June 25, 2019, Netanyahu said that Israel, while protecting its national interests in Syria, would never put Russian troops in jeopardy. He thanked the Russian government and President Vladimir Putin for close cooperation in creating a deconfliction mechanism in Syria.

A Russian diplomatic source told TASS in August 2019 that Russian and Israeli military officials continue negotiations to improve the existing mechanism. "Some time ago, we came to an understanding that it was necessary to formalize them [the agreements]. The talks between military officials continue. We hope that they will end soon yielding good results," he said.

Domestic context

Netanyahu’s visit to Sochi will take place five days before the September 17 snap legislative election. According to opinion polls, the minister’s Likud party may get about 30 parliamentary seats - just like it did during the previous election on April 9. As a result, Netanyahu was unable to form a parliamentary coalition, because he managed to win the support of only 60 out of 120 lawmakers.

His 42-day term for appointing the government expired on May 19. In the early hours of May 30, the premier initiated and secured the adoption of a bill about the parliament’s self-dissolution and an early vote.

Netanyahu headed the Israeli government between 1996 and 1999. In 2009, he was appointed to the post once again, and has since remained the head of the Israeli government. If his party succeeds in the September 17 elections, he will form his fourth consecutive government.