More Is­rael-Rus­sia talks on Syria

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - BY ANSHEL PF­EF­FER

HIGH-LEVEL MIL­I­TARY talks be­gan on Tues­day in Tel Aviv be­tween a Rus­sian del­e­ga­tion and a team led by IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Ma­jor-Gen­eral Yair Golan.

Both sides re­mained tight-lipped about the talks, but Is­raeli of­fi­cers said the is­sues be­ing dis­cussed in­cluded the co-or­di­na­tion of oper­a­tions be­tween the two coun­tries’ mil­i­taries in Syria, in­clud­ing both air and naval oper­a­tions and elec­tro-mag­netic com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

The low-key and ap­par­ently cor­dial na­ture of the Is­raeli-Rus­sian mil­i­tary en­gage­ment has been in stark con­trast to what is hap­pen­ing on the other side of Syria.

Rus­sian diplo­mats were called in three times by Turk­ish of­fi­cials who wanted to com­plain about in­cur­sions by the coun­try’s air force jets into Tur­key’s airspace.

In all cases, the in­cur­sions ended quickly and with­out in­ci­dent af­ter Turk­ish F-16 fighter-jets were scram­bled. But the in­ci­dents raise the con­cern that, as Tur­key is a Nato mem­ber, Rus­sia is us­ing its de­ploy­ment to Syria — to sup­port the As­sad regime — to chal­lenge the West’s mil­i­tary al­liance as well.

The Sukhoi bombers sent to Syria’s Latakia air­base by Rus­sia last month have been car­ry­ing out air-strikes since the mid­dle of last week, but de­spite the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment’s claims that

A man sorts through wreck­age at the site of al­leged Rus­sian airstrikes on the town of Idlib, Syria, last week­end they were tar­get­ing Daesh bases, the lo­ca­tion of most of the at­tacks were not in ar­eas held by the ex­treme ji­hadist move­ment — they were gen­er­ally against more mod­er­ate Syr­ian rebel groups.

This has stoked ac­cu­sa­tions that Rus­sia’s true in­ten­tions in Syria are to prop up Pres­i­dent Bashar al-As­sad, who un­til re­cently was in dan­ger of los­ing his last strongholds in Damascus and the Allaw­ite en­clave on the Mediter­ranean, rather than fight­ing Daesh.

Re­cent state­ments com­ing from Rus­sia about prepa­ra­tions to join the ground fight­ing in Syria have also given am­mu­ni­tion to Vladimir Putin’s po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents.

They ac­cuse him of in­ter­ven­ing in Syria to de­flect at­ten­tion from the lack of Rus­sian progress in Ukraine.

All this is hap­pen­ing when the United States and other Western na­tions, in­clud­ing Bri­tain, have yet to for­mu­late a clear pol­icy in re­sponse to Rus­sia’s ac­tions in Syria.

Mean­while, Is­raeli of­fi­cials seemed con­fi­dent that from their coun­try’s per­spec­tive, while Rus­sia’s pres­ence in Syria “was some­thing we have to take into ac­count”, it was a de­vel­op­ment Is­rael could deal with through the ef­fi­cient Jerusalem-Moscow re­la­tion­ship which also al­lows it to mon­i­tor Ira­nian ac­tiv­ity in Syria.


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