Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will meet Wednesday in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin for talks focusing on Iran’s role in Syria. The premier has met with Putin about a dozen times since Russia in 2015 intervened in the war in Syria and subsequently became the major power broker in the theater. However, it is their first formal encounter since the September downing by Syrian forces of a Russian reconnaissance plane, an incident the Kremlin nevertheless blamed on Israel which minutes earlier conducted an aerial raid on a nearby Iranian arms depot (the two leaders did have a brief face-to-face in November on the sidelines of a conference in Paris). The Jewish state has relied on Putin to rein in Tehran, which has invested heavily in fighting on behalf of the Assad regime and currently is attempting to establish permanent military infrastructure across Israel’s northern frontier. Prior to his departure, Netanyahu reiterated that the Islamic Republic repeatedly threatens to destroy Israel “and we will not give it a base near our border.” According to reports, Putin also intends to discuss the conflict with the Palestinians, as Moscow has taken a more pro-active role in mediating between the sides after recently hosting delegations from the West Bank and Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
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