In wake of Russia’s Syria withdrawal, Putin and Netanyahu plan security meeting

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their talks in Novo-Ogaryovos State Residence in Moscow, Sept. 21, 2015. (Dmitri Azarov/Kommersant Photo via Getty Images)

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their talks in Novo-Ogaryovos State Residence in Moscow, Sept. 21, 2015. (Dmitri Azarov/Kommersant Photo via Getty Images)

(JTA) – Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet together in Moscow soon to discuss regional security and trade.

At a joint news conference with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin before a meeting in Moscow on Wednesday, Putin announced his plans to meet with Netanyahu, the Times of Israel reported.

Israeli officials confirmed that a sit-down between the two leaders will happen soon, but did not offer specific dates.

Citing Russian media, the Times of Israel said that Putin said the two countries “have a large number of questions to discuss linked with the development of bilateral trade and economic relations and questions of the region’s security.”

On Monday, Putin made the surprise announcement that he plans to pull most of his forces out of Syria, which has been entangled in a civil war for five years. En route to Russia for a two-day trip on Tuesday, Rivlin told Israeli media that “there is a need for coordination” with Russia on the Syria situation to ensure that Russia’s withdrawal does not result in strengthening Hezbollah and its backer Iran, both sworn enemies of Israel.

“Everyone understands that Islamic State is a danger to the entire world, but the Shiite fundamentalist Islam of Iran is for us no less a threat,” Rivlin said before the trip, according to The Jerusalem Post.

An unidentified senior Israeli official told the Post Tuesday, “This is not a zero-sum game. Russia has interests similar to ours. They also do not want to see a strong Iran that will spread terror on Russia’s southern border. The Russians also understand that it will not be good if Hezbollah remains and becomes established in Syria.”

In his joint press conference with Rivlin Wednesday, Putin said, “The ties between our countries are based on friendship and mutual understanding,” noting that Israel has a significant population of Russian emigres and said tourism between the two countries is on the rise.

Rivlin said the Jews would always remember Russia’s key role in World War II, noting that “many Holocaust survivors all over the world remember being liberated by the Red Army.”

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