The Kremlin says leaders from both countries will strengthen military and diplomatic ties following the Trump announcement to withdraw US Forces from Syria.
Putin and Netanyahu discuss Syrian conflict after US withdrawal
Despite Tel Aviv’s attempts to improve strained relations with Moscow following the Russian Il-20 crash last September in Syria, Israeli-Russian relations remain cold and the announced withdrawal of US Forces from Syria won’t make things any better. In a context of turbulence where Turkey and the Kurds are making tactical shifts, the future of the Russian-Israeli collaboration in the region remains quite uncertain despite the last meeting between the leaders of both countries.
Israeli officials fear that Iran will advance its pawns
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the Syrian conflict on Friday in a telephone interview, the first since the announcement of the US military withdrawal from Syria. According to a statement from the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office, Netanyahu and Putin “discussed the situation in Syria and recent developments and agreed on continued coordination between Russian and Israeli military forces“. On December the 19th and to everyone’s surprise, President Donald Trump announced the upcoming withdrawal of American forces from Syria where they were helping Kurdish forces against jihadists. Although he said he “fully respects the decision of the American ally”, Israeli officials fear that Iran will advance its pawns in Syria, with Moscow’s discreet backing.
Netanyahu praised the coordination with Trump on Iran
In 2015, Israel and Russia set up a “confliction management” mechanism to avoid clashes between their armies in Syria. But this coordination was undermined when a Russian military aircraft was mistakenly shot down by Syrian anti-aircraft defence after an Israeli raid in Syria on the 17th of September, where 15 Russian soldiers had been killed. Russia then announced the strengthening of the Syrian regime’s anti-aircraft defence, with S-300 batteries and jamming of communications from nearby aircraft. On Thursday, Netanyahu praised the coordination with Trump on Iran. “President Trump is acting against Iran economically and in Israel we are acting against Iran militarily“.
The US is determined to support Israel despite the US Forces withdrawal
On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo assured Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu on the side-lines of the inauguration ceremony of the new Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in Brasilia that “the President’s decision on Syria does not change the fact that this administration is working alongside Israel“. Donald Trump announced last week the withdrawal of the 2,000 U.S. soldiers deployed in Syria, saying that the jihadist Islamic State (EI), which has lost almost all its territory, has been definitely “defeated”.