Photo Credit: Vadim Savitsky / Russian Defense Ministry Press Service pool
Sergey Shoigu with Bashar al-Assad

The operation in Syria is nearing completion, which means that some issues should be tackled immediately, Russian Defense Minister Army General Sergey Shoigu told his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Liberman in Tel Aviv on Monday, according to TASS.

“I would particularly like to discuss everything connected to Syria,” Shoigu said. “The operation there is nearing completion and some issues need to be tackled immediately, while the prospects for the situation in Syria also need to be discussed,” he added.

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According to the Russian defense minister, those issues of his country’s relationship with Israel are beyond “our military and technical cooperation, the fight against terrorism and the situation in the region will top the agenda.”

Shoigu suggested that “as terrorist activities in the world have been growing, the global community needs to close ranks to fight against this scourge,” expressing his confidence that the proposed discussion “will help us understand each other better and boost friendly relations between the armed forces of Russia and Israel.”

The Russian defense minister thanked his Israeli counterpart for participating in the Sixth Moscow Conference on International Security which was held in April, as well as for the constructive dialogue on pressing regional security issues, which took place on the sidelines of the same conference. “We hope to see you at the next Moscow Conference that we will hold in April 2018. We will definitely send you an invitation,” Shoigu told Liberman.

According to Minister Shoigu, the Moscow Conference on International Security has become a platform “for a frank exchange of views on a broad range of global issues.”

Some of those frank exchanges were reported about Shoigu’s meetings with PM Netanyahu and Minister Liberman, and they were all about the Iranian threat to Middle east peace. Russia has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the lifting of sanctions from Iran and the thawing of about $150 billion of Iran’s bank deposits by the West. As a result, there has been some cooling off in Moscow’s relationship with Jerusalem.

In 2007, Russia signed an $800 million contract to sell Iran the S-300 missile system, but later suspended delivery under strong objections from Israel and the US. Later, the Russians were willing to endure losing a $4 billion Iranian lawsuit for damages over their failure to make good on the missile deal, in exchange for Israel agreeing to stay out of the European natural gas market.

But the 2015 nuclear deal opened up Iran’s newly retrieved assets for the Russians to plunder, and the multi billion dollar deals they have signed with Iran since made their potential benefits from their trade with Israel seem puny. They also went ahead and delivered the S-300s.

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