The Guardian

Russia denounces Netanyahu’s West Bank annexation plan

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Moscow says proposal could increase regional tensions, as Israeli PM meets PutinIsraeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu flies into Sochi on Thursday for talks with Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, that come after Moscow added its voice to criticism of his pre-election pledge to annex occupied Palestinian territories.

Netanyahu said on Tuesday that he would nnex up to one-third of the West Bank if he is re-elected at next week’s parliamentary polls. His announcement was condemned by the Palestinians, Arab countries, the UN, and the EU.

The Russian foreign ministry said on Wednesday that Netanyahu’s move could “lead to a sharp escalation of tension in the region and undermine hopes for the establishment of a long-awaited peace between Israel and its Arab neighbours”. The Kremlin has not yet commented on Netanyahu’s statement.

Today’s meeting in Sochi, on Russia’s Black Sea coastline, is the third meeting between Netanyahu and Putin this year. They also held talks ahead of Israeli elections in April. The two leaders have met over a dozen times since 2015.

Netanyahu and Putin are also set to discuss the conflict in Syria. Russia has backed Syrian leader, Bashar al-Assad, while Israel has conducted hundreds of strikes in Syria, most of them against what it says are Iranian and Hezbollah targets. Both Iran and Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shia group, support Assad.

Netanyahu told Russia’s RBC media outlet that his good relationship with Putin had helped avert “a near-unavoidable clash” between the Israeli and Russian militaries in Syria. The two countries signed a deal in 2015 to coordinate military actions over Syria in order to avoid accidentally trading fire.

Russian media reports said this week that Russian Su-35 fighter jets prevented Israeli warplanes from carrying out airstrikes on southern Syria. The incident came after Iranian-backed forces were reported to have launched a rocket attack on Israel.

Putin is due to meet the Iranian president, Hassan Rohani, and the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in Ankara next week to discuss the Syria conflict. Russia last month offered to help Iran dodge US sanctions by allowing Tehran to transport crude oil through its ports in Crimea, which Russia seized from Ukraine in 2014.

Netanyahu sought to dissuade Russia from closer ties with Iran, telling RBC that Tehran posed a threat not only to Israel and the west, but also to Moscow.Netanayhu’s visit to Russia was interpreted back home as a last-minute attempt to win over Russia-speaking Israelis in next Tuesday’s election. The prime minister has launched an aggressive campaign to woo the minority of one million people, running ads in Russian and erecting a giant poster of him and Putin on his Likud party’s Tel Aviv headquarters. Continue reading…

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Author : Marc Bennetts in Moscow and Oliver Holmes in Jerusalem

Publish date : 2019-09-12 10:46:40

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