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Putin, Netanyahu Hold Talks In Moscow


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) meets with Russian President Vladimir in Moscow on January 29.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Moscow for talks covering the Syrian conflict and Iran's role in the Middle East.

The two leaders on January 29 also discussed bilateral cooperation in trade and the cultural and humanitarian spheres, as well as "pressing international and regional issues" including the peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians and the situation in Syria, the Kremlin said.

The Israeli prime minister said on January 28 that he planned to discuss "various regional developments, enhanced security coordination between the [Israeli] and the Russian military forces in Syria, and a series of issues that are important -- very important -- for Israel's security."

Netanyahu was accompanied in the talks by Zeev Elkin, a Ukrainian-born Israeli minister in charge of Jerusalem affairs and environmental protection, according to Israel's Haaretz newspaper.

At Moscow's Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center, Putin and Netanyahu attended the opening of an exhibition on the 1943 uprising at the Sobibor Nazi death camp.

After the presentation, Netanyahu said Israel was "still ready to prevent any attempts of this type of ideology, in the first place Iran, which speaks of its intention to destroy us."

Moscow has maintained good relations with both Israel and its regional rivals, including Syria and Iran.

Russia, along with Iran, has given Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government crucial support throughout Syria's nearly seven-year civil war.

Israel says it does not support any of the parties to the conflict, but Israeli aircraft regularly carry out air strikes inside Syrian territory.

Israeli leaders have pledged to prevent Syrian territory being used for Iran to set up bases or transfer high-quality weaponry to Lebanon's Hizballah group, which is backing Damascus in the war.

Haaretz reported ahead of the talks that Netanyahu and Putin would discuss Israel's opposition to any arrangement that would let Iranian forces remain on Syria's territory once the war is over, as well as the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

In Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi in August, Netanyahu told Putin that Israel was prepared to act unilaterally to prevent an expanded Iranian military presence in Syria.

Israel also opposes the nuclear accord curbing Iran's nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

U.S. President Donald Trump said earlier this month that he wanted to work with European allies and Congress to fix what he called "disastrous flaws" in the agreement, and warned that Washington would withdraw from the deal if its terms are not strengthened within four months.

Tehran has ruled out any changes in the deal, while the other signatories -- Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia -- have closed ranks in support of the accord.

Netanyahu's visit to Moscow also comes after the Palestinians said they would reject any peace plan presented by the U.S. administration following Trump’s announcement of recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital earlier this month.

Putin is expected to host Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas next month.

During Netanyahu's visit, participants in a two-day Syrian "congress of national dialogue" were gathering in the southern Russian city of Sochi.

The Russian initiative, backed by Turkey and Iran, has been met with suspicion by many Western countries and the United Nations.

With reporting by dpa, TASS, and Haaretz
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