Putin, Netanyahu discuss Syria conflict, omit Russian missiles | News | DW | 14.05.2013
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Putin, Netanyahu discuss Syria conflict, omit Russian missiles

Vladimir Putin and Benjamin Netanyahu have appeared to find common ground on the Syrian conflict. However, neither mentioned Russia's arms exports to Syria, which Israel views as threat to its own security.

A press conference at the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Tuesday revealed few details of talks just held between Russian President Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Instead of alluding to diplomatic differences, President Putin agreed with his Israeli counterpart that international efforts must aim to contain Syria's violence and destruction to prevent a spread to neighboring regions.

"Only a quick cessation of hostilities and a political settlement can prevent a negative scenario," Putin told reporters. "At this sensitive moment, it's particularly important to avoid any action that could destabilize the situation

Prime Minister Netanyahu struck a friendly tone as well. "Together we are trying to find ways to strengthen stability and security, we have a remarkable opportunity to directly speak with each other," the Israeli premier said.

The talks between the two leaders came less than a week after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and the US Secretary of State John Kerry announced their nation's intention to jointly host peace talks in June aimed at bringing the Syrian civil war to an end.

Israel defends security issues

The Israeli premier had been expected to repeat previous condemnation of Russia's weapons shipments to Syria, however, he said little about the topic beyond the fact that Israel had the right to "defend its citizens."

Russia's position on intervention in Syria has strained diplomatic relations with the US and the EU.

While Western leaders and Israel have advocated action and condemned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, Moscow has refused to halt weapons shipments to Damascus, which it contends originate from contracts signed before the war began.

Israel says that the arms threaten its own national security, in particular the possibility of Russia supplying al-Assad's military with S-300 surface-to-air missiles, which could reach Israeli territory.

The civil war in Syria has already posed a threat to Israeli security, according to Israeli officials.

Earlier this month, Israeli military forces conducted airstrikes outside of Damascus. It said it had eliminated an Iranian missile shipment destined for Lebanon-based militia group Hezbollah.

Violence in the armed conflict between al-Assad's regime and government opposition forces has left over 80,000 dead and flooded neighboring countries in the region with over 1 million refugees.

Western leaders are advocating the removal of President al-Assad as a key step to ensuring Syria's stability. Russia does not believe al-Assad's removal should be a precondition for talks.

kms/ipj (AP, AFP, Reuters)