July 3, 2018 / 5:11 PM / a year ago

Israel's Netanyahu to meet Putin in Moscow next week - Israel

FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the prime minister's office in Jerusalem, June 24, 2018. Gali Tibbon/Pool via Reuters

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow next week, Netanyahu’s office said in a brief statement on Tuesday. The meeting is set for Wednesday, July 11.

Netanyahu and Putin meet periodically and discuss regional issues, particularly concerning mutual interests in the civil war in Syria and to avoid accidental clashes between Israeli and Russian forces that both operate in Syria. The two leaders last met in Moscow in May.

Israel is also concerned that Iran is establishing a military presence in Syria, and it has attacked Iranian targets there.

Backed by Russia, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad launched an offensive last month to regain the southwestern Deraa region, driving thousands of refugees towards neighbouring Jordan and Israel.

On Sunday, Israel beefed up its tank and artillery deployment on the Golan Heights frontier with Syria, cautioning Damascus’ forces to keep a distance as they sweep rebel-held areas over the border.

“We have a separation of forces agreements with Syria since 1974, this is a fundamental arrangement. We will follow it meticulously and it is incumbent on all others to do the same,” Netanyahu said on Tuesday in a veiled warning that Israel will not accept any breach of the frontier.

Since intervening in the Syrian civil war on behalf of Assad in 2015, Russia has generally turned a blind eye to Israeli attacks on suspected arms transfers and deployments by his Iranian and Hezbollah allies.

Putin and Netanyahu also held a phone conversation last month and agreed to strengthen coordination on Syria and discussed joint efforts to ensure security in the area of the Syrian-Israeli border, the Kremlin said.

Writing by Ori Lewis, Editing by William Maclean

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