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Putin, Netanyahu to meet after downing of Russian reconnaissance plane

Russian President with Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu. (Kremlin / Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin “soon” in the first such meeting since a Russian military aircraft was shot down over the eastern Mediterranean Sea last month.

Netanyahu and Putin spoke by telephone and “agreed to meet soon to continue the important inter-military security coordination,” the Israeli leader said on October 7, without citing a date for the talks.

Putin and Netanyahu have spoken at least three times by phone since 15 Russian servicemen were killed when their reconnaissance plane was downed on September 17.

Russia blamed the incident partly on Israel, which was staging air raids on Iranian targets in Syria at the time.

The Russian Defense Ministry accused Israeli warplanes of using the Russian aircraft as a cover to dodge Syria’s existing, Russian-provided defense systems.

Israel voiced regret afterward, but blamed Syrian incompetence for the incident and said it would continue bombing Iranian military targets in Syria.

Netanyahu again pledged on October 7 to “prevent Iran from entrenching itself militarily in Syria and transferring deadly weapons” to Lebanon’s Shi’ite group Hizballah.

Russian and Iranian military support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have been critical in helping turn the tide of the war in his favor.

More than 400,000 people have been killed in the conflict, which began with a government crackdown on pro-democracy protests in 2011, and millions more driven from their homes.

On October 2, Moscow announced it had delivered S-300 surface-to-air missile systems to its Syrian ally, despite objections from Israel and the United States that the weapons will escalate the war in the Middle Eastern country.

Moscow said the purpose of the delivery was to protect Russian military personnel in Syria.

Russia also announced it will begin jamming the radars of hostile warplanes in regions near Syria, including over the Mediterranean Sea, to prevent further incidents that could cause harm to its troops.