Photo Credit: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO
Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Putin at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow, May 9, 2018.

President Vladimir Putin considers it necessary to improve Russian-Israeli military cooperation, the Russian leader said in a telephone conversation with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, TASS reported Saturday.

“When discussing the situation in Syria, Vladimir Putin noted the need to improve Russian-Israeli military cooperation. In this regard, the relevance of the forthcoming contact between experts of the ministries of defense in a joint working group was stressed,” the Kremlin press service announced on Saturday.

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The conversation between the leaders of the two countries was initiated by the Israeli side, according to TASS. Putin and Netanyahu agreed to “work on the next personal meeting of the leaders of the two countries,” the press service said.

Netanyahu’s office issued a concurrent press release, saying Netanyahu updated Putin on the details of Operation Northern Shield and Israel’s continuing intention to foil the tunnels threat.

“The two agreed that security delegations from the two countries will meet soon and that a meeting between the leaders would be coordinated,” said the Israeli announcement, adding that “Prime Minister Netanyahu reiterated Israel’s policy to prevent the establishment of an Iranian presence in Syria and to act against Iranian and Hezbollah aggression.”

In mid-November, Israeli Ambassador to Moscow Gary Koren told radio station Ekho Moskvy (Echo of Moscow) that relations between Russia and Israel are going through “a good phase” following the downing of Russia’s Ilyushin Il-20 aircraft over the Mediterranean Sea on September 17.

“It seems we are currently going through a good phase,” Koren said, pointing out that although Jerusalem and Moscow viewed the aircraft incident differently, Israel mourns “together with the families of the deceased Russian military personnel.”

“We have never had and never will target the Russian military,” Koren stressed.

However, according to the Israeli ambassador, as long as the Iranian military is active in Syria, the risk of such incidents will remain. “It is important to emphasize that as long as Iran continues its activities in Syria and these activities are not peaceful as far as Israel is concerned, we reserve complete freedom of action,” Koren said.

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