Russia reassures Israel over Syria withdrawal as Rivlin visits Moscow

Russia’s Ambassador to Israel yesterday assured that Moscow will do everything to guarantee Israel’s interests during the process of Russia’s military withdrawal from Syria.

Russian President Vladimir Putin surprised the world on Monday, announcing that Moscow’s six-month military presence in Syria will come to an end, as “the task put before … Russian armed forces has, on the whole, been fulfilled.” The Russian intervention appears to have bolstered Syria’s President Assad, whose forces have reversed the military situation against opposition forces in several parts of the country, with the help of Russian air strikes.

However, during this period Israel and Russia established a high-level chain of communication, in order to coordinate their respective military operations in and around Syria. Such cooperation has provided a degree of stability from Israel’s perspective. Russia’s withdrawal has sparked Israeli concern over an impending growing Iranian influence in Syria, especially on Israel’s border where infrequent attacks on Israeli forces have taken place. Israel is also thought to have prevented attempts by Iran’s proxy Hezbollah, which is fighting alongside Assad, from receiving advanced missiles amid the fog of Syria’s civil war, which could then be used against Israel.

Russia’s ambassador to Israel, Alexey Drobinin, said yesterday that an “ongoing dialogue” will continue regarding Syria, adding “we will also do everything so that Israel’s national security interests are not harmed in this process.” He explained, “Israel is a neighbouring country. It cannot be indifferent to what is happening in Syria. We take this into account, of course.”

Israel’s concerns were also highlighted by President Reuven Rivlin, who landed in Moscow last night for an official visit. He is expected to address the situation in Syria with President Putin at a meeting today. Rivlin commented yesterday, “There’s a need for coordination with Russia in the current situation we’re in,” as “We want Iran and Hezbollah not to emerge strengthened from this entire process.” Rivlin said that “Shi’ite Iranian fundamentalist Islam is for us just as dangerous” as ISIS.

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