Russian envoy ‘can’t imagine’ a face-off with Israel

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By Middle East Affairs

The Russian ambassador toIsrael said Wednesday he did not believe there would be a confrontation between Israel and Russia over Syria, Reuters reported.

Russia joined Syria‘s civil war in 2015 in support of President Bashar al-Assad. Since then, the ally has remained mostly neutral during occasional Israeli air strikes on bases in Syria. The bases Iran strikes are generally suspected to be affiliated with Iran, another ally of Assad. Iran has been called Israel’s biggest regional foe, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly warned Syria to keep Iran away from the Israeli border.

Russia’s neutral stance seemed to change, though, after it blamed on Israel an April 9 air strike that killed seven Iranians on base in Syria.

Israeli news site Ynet asked Ambassador Alexander Shein whether Russia would now “curtailIsrael‘s freedom of action inSyria.”

He responded: “It is of course in our interest that these actions not take place, because they worsen theSyriasituation.” But then he added: “We of course understand the reasons forIsraeldeciding to carry out actions of this kind, and would of course also prefer that these reasons not exist.”

Russia is considering givingSyriathe S-300 missile defense system, which has raised hostility in Israel.

“If anyone shoots at our planes, we will destroy them,”Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Tuesday.

“I can’t imagine any such scenario,” Shein said in response to Lieberman’s comment. “We are mutually coordinating and updating aboutSyria… So far, there have been no incidents between us, nor even hints at incidents, and I hope there will not be.”

He also said the potential S-3000 deal only surfaced because of an April 14 joint missilestrike in Syriaby the United States, France and Britain.

“I emphasize that the question arose in the context of Western aggression againstSyria, and has nothing to do withIsrael,” he said.

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