Israel and Russia will coordinate their military actions over Syria to avoid an accidental exchange of fire, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Monday after concluding talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.
"My objective was to prevent misunderstandings between IDF units and Russian forces," Netanyahu told Israeli reporters, noting that he and Putin had "agreed on a mechanism to prevent such misunderstandings."
“Our conversation was dedicated to the complex security situation on the northern border,” he added. “I explained our policies in different ways to try to thwart the deadly weapons transfers from the Syrian army to Hezbollah - action actually undertaken under the supervision of Iran.”
Netanyahu also made clear that Israel would continue to take steps against Iran, which is deeply involved in Syria. Iran has deployed hundreds of additional soldiers from its Revolutionary Guards Force in an effort to prevent flagging pro-Assad forces crumbling in the face of concerted rebel offensives on their western heartlands.
The Islamic Republic has also armed Israel's enemies in the Middle East - particularly Hezbollah - and Netanyahu defended Israel's rights to defend itself without Russian intervention. Russia and Iran have both sided with Assad during the four-year war.
“This is our right and also our duty. There were no objections to our rights and to what I said. On the contrary: there was readiness to make sure that whatever Russia’s intentions for Syria, Russia will not be a partner in extreme actions by Iran against us.”
Earlier Monday, Putin began the high-profile meeting by seeking to calm Israeli concerns over the deployment of Russian soldiers in Syria, promising Netanyahu that his forces would act "responsibly."
"We know and understand that the Syrian army and Syria in general is in such a state that it isn't up to opening a second front - it is trying to maintain its own statehood," he said in comments broadcast on Russian television.
Netanyahu's Moscow visit is believed to be primarily aimed at avoiding any possible clashes between Israeli and Russian jets that could operate over Syria.
Israeli military officials reportedly fear that any Russian air presence could cut their room for maneuver after several purported strikes on Iranian arms transfers to Hezbollah through Syria in recent months that were not officially acknowledged by Israeli authorities.