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Israeli Air Force Chief Holds 'Open' Talks In Moscow On Syrian Downing Of Russian Plane


Israel's Air Force chief met with Russian officials over Syria's accidental downing of a Russian Il-20 plane (pictured, file photo).

Israel’s air force chief held “professional, open” talks with officials in Moscow in the aftermath of the shoot-down of a Russian warplane by Syria earlier in the week that Russian officials said was caused by Israeli actions.

Major General Amikam Norkin traveled to Moscow on September 20 to share his military's findings on the incident in which 15 Russian service-members aboard the Il-20 surveillance plane were killed off the coast of Syria.

Russia has acknowledged that antiaircraft forces of its ally Syria inadvertently brought down the plane, but it also blamed Israel for conducting a fighter jet raid on Syrian forces around the same time.

A statement released by the Israeli military after Norkin's Moscow visit said that "the meetings were held in good spirits, and the representatives shared a professional, open, and transparent discussion on various issues."

"Both sides emphasized the importance of the states' interests and the continued implementation of the deconfliction system," the statement said.

Israel and Russia have set up an exchange of information between their forces operating in and around Syria to reduce the risk of air incidents.

The Russian plane was shot down by Syrian air defenses on September 17 after Israeli missiles struck the coastal region of Latakia.

The Israeli military said its jets had targeted a Syrian site that was in the process of transferring weapons to Iran-backed Hizballah militants.

It added that Israeli planes were already in Israeli airspace when Syria fired the missiles that hit the Russian plane.

Israel insisted it warned Russian forces of its raid ahead of time in accordance with previous agreements.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said the Israeli warning came less than a minute before the strike, and it accused the Israeli military of using the Russian plane as a cover to dodge Syrian defense systems.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Russian President Vladimir to express sorrow over the deaths of crew member, blaming Syria and offering to send Norkin with detailed information.

"I told him that we have the right of self-defense," Netanyahu said on September 20, adding that "there is also very great importance to maintaining the security coordination between Israel and Russia."

Russia, along with Iran, has given Syrian President Bashar al-Assad support throughout the country’s seven-year civil war, which began with a government crackdown on protesters in March 2011.

Russian air support has been particularly crucial in allowing Assad to hold off Islamic insurgents and Western-backed rebels and maintain power.

With reporting by AP and AFP
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