Netanyahu to See Putin in Moscow Next Month

YERUSHALAYIM (Reuters) -

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on April 21 to discuss security issues in the Middle East, an Israeli political source said Tuesday.

Israel and Russia have maintained a hotline to help avoid their aircraft accidentally clashing over Syrian territory. This has allowed Israel to continue to carry out covert strikes to foil suspected Hizbullah or Iranian operations against it on Syrian turf without fear of accidentally clashing with Moscow.

Israeli officials have privately said that Russian forces sent in last year to help Syrian President Bashar al-Assad turn the tide in a five-year-old civil war also served to restrain his anti-Israel allies — Iran and Lebanon’s Hizbullah militia.

Putin told visiting Israeli President Reuven Rivlin earlier in March that he had agreed to meet Netanyahu to discuss the security situation in the Middle East.

An Israeli official who declined to be named said that during Rivlin’s meeting with Putin, he “asked that Russia work to restore UNDOF as part of any long-term arrangement in Syria,” referring to a United Nations peacekeeping force.

Personnel from UNDOF, which monitors the Israeli-Syrian frontier on the Golan Heights, have come under fire and even been kidnapped by terrorists fighting Assad’s forces, prompting peacekeeping contingents from some participating nations to withdraw from the force.