In their first meeting, Bennett and Putin discuss Iran, Israel-Russia ties

October 24, 2021 by Aryeh Savir - TPS
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Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and President of Russia Vladimir Putin met on Friday in Sochi, Russia, the first meeting between the two that focused on Iran’s presence in Syria and its quest for nuclear weapons.

PM Naftali Bennett and President of Russia Vladimir Putin. (Koby Gideon/GPO)

Russia has a strong military presence in Syria and has close ties with Damascus and Tehran. Israel maintains an open line with Russian forces deployed in Syria to avoid clashes between the militaries. The Israeli Air Force has conducted thousands of strikes against Iranian and terror targets in Syria in recent years.

Bennett noted in his remarks prior to the five-hour meeting that Israel’s relations with Russia, which is arriving at its 30th anniversary, “are very special because of the past, the present and the future.”

“We will also discuss the situation in Syria, and of course, our efforts to halt the Iranian military nuclear program,” said Bennett.

Putin stated that “it would be very interesting and useful for me to exchange information with you on the situation in the region. As you may know, we are making efforts to restore and strengthen Syrian statehood. There are problems in this regard, and they are numerous. But there are also points of contact and opportunities for cooperation, especially where matters related to fighting terrorism are involved.”

The two also discussed the ties between the countries in economic, trade, technological, scientific, and cultural matters.

During the first seven months of this year, trade between Israel and Russia grew by 50%, despite the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

Construction and Housing Minister Zeev Elkin, an immigrant from Russia to Israel, participated in the preparatory work for the visit and took part in the meeting between the two leaders, serving as an interpreter.

“It was decided to keep policies vis-à-vis Russia in place [regarding IAF attacks] in Syrian territory,” he said in a statement.

Bennett described their meeting as “beneficial” and which “will help strengthen bilateral ties.”

Due to the length of the meeting, Bennet spent the Shabbat in Sochi.

Putin telephoned Bennett after the conclusion of the Sabbath and invited Bennett him his wife to visit St. Petersburg. The Prime Minister accepted the invitation and replied that he would be happy to come for a visit in the future.

Bennett returned to Israel on Saturday night.

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