Before Netanyahu-Putin meeting, Russia condemns Jordan Valley annexation pledge

Before Netanyahu-Putin meeting, Russia condemns Jordan Valley annexation pledge
Prime Minister Netanyahu will travel to Sochi for talks with Putin, a day after Russia condemned the deeply controversial Jordan Valley annexation pledge.
2 min read
12 September, 2019
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi [AFP/Getty]

Russia warned Wednesday that Benjamin Netanyahu's pledge to annex the West Bank's Jordan Valley could escalate tensions as the Israeli prime minister geared up to hold talks with President Vladimir Putin.

The Russian foreign ministry said it was concerned over the Israeli leadership's plan, saying its implementation could lead to a "sharp escalation of tensions in the region (and) undermine hopes for the establishment of long-awaited peace between Israel and its Arab neighbours".

Moscow pointed out that Netanyahu's pre-election pledge drew a "sharp negative reaction" in the Arab world and reiterated its call for direct talks between Israel and Palestinians.

Battling to win re-election in 17 September polls, Netanyahu issued the deeply controversial pledge on Tuesday night, drawing firm condemnation from the Palestinians, Arab states, the UN and EU.

On Thursday, Netanyahu plans to travel to the Russian resort of Sochi for talks with Putin as he fights to continue his reign as the country's longest-serving prime minister.

"The leaders will discuss regional issues including the situation in Syria, with an emphasis on tightening the military coordination mechanisms," Netanyahu's office said on Wednesday.

Netanyahu hinted that he would meet Putin in Russia to discuss Tehran's military presence in Syria, where Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes on Iranian and Hezbollah targets.

Iran, Russia and Hezbollah all back Bashar al-Assad's regime in the Syrian war.

Israel and Russia have established a hotline to avoid accidental clashes in Syria, but the system did not prevent a friendly fire incident in September 2018 when Syrian air defences downed a Russian plane during an Israeli raid.

Netanyahu is also expected to meet with Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu.

Netanyahu also met with Putin in Moscow days ahead of Israel's 9 April elections.

The Israeli prime minister failed to form a coalition government after securing a majority in April and opted for a new election.

Putin drew strong condemnation from the West when Russia annexed the peninsula of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

The Russian president has brushed aside international criticism, defending the takeover of Crimea as a move to protect its Russian-speaking population.

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