Netanyahu to meet Putin amid Syria missile concerns: Kremlin
JERUSALEM - Agence France-Presse
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (3L), speaks to Chinese President Xi Jinping, during a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, May 9. AP PhotoIsraeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will visit Russia for talks with President Vladimir Putin amid concerns Moscow may be about to deliver advanced missiles to Syria, the Kremlin said May 11.
Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed the visit to AFP, but declined to give details, although he told the Interfax news agency it was being planned for next week.
The state RIA Novosti news agency, citing a diplomatic source, also said Netanyahu expected to call on Putin at his Black Sea residence in Sochi early next week.
"The visit is currently at the stage of active preparations," the source was quoted as saying. Israel's Haaretz newspaper on May 10 cited a senior Israeli official as saying that Netanyahu would travel to Moscow in the next two weeks.
"Netanyahu and Putin will discuss the Russian arms sales to Syria, in particular the sale of advanced S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems," it said, adding that the Israeli premier would also seek to raise the Iranian nuclear issue. Netanyahu's office declined to comment.
Israel twice last week carried out air strikes near Damascus, attacks a senior Israeli source said were aimed at preventing the transfer of sophisticated weapons to Hezbollah, the powerful Lebanese Shiite group allied to Syria.
The Wall Street Journal reported on May 8 that Israel had provided information to Washington about the imminent sale to Syria of Russian S-300 missile batteries, advanced ground-to-air weapons that can take out aircraft or guided missiles.
Russia fulfilling contracts: Lavrov
British Prime Minister David Cameron visited Putin at his Black Sea vacation home on May 10 to talk strategy on the Syria crisis, days after top US and Russian diplomats agreed to work together on a solution to the conflict.
In a visit to Warsaw on May 11, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow was continuing to fulfil contracts by delivering military hardware to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime in defiance of calls for a freeze.
"Russia has sold and signed contracts a long time ago, and is completing supplies of the equipment, which is anti-aircraft systems, according to the already signed contracts," he told reporters.
The West and Russia have been repeatedly at odds over the Syria conflict, with the United States and Europe accusing Moscow of seeking to prop up Assad and selling him arms.
Cameron's talks with Putin came amid concerns that Russia may be preparing to hand over to Syria sophisticated surface-to-air missiles, which would significantly strengthen its defences and complicate any foreign intervention.
A high-ranking diplomatic source, who participated in the Putin-Cameron talks, said the issue of arms supplies to Syria had been raised at their meeting.
Speaking to Russian news agencies, he insisted Moscow had to meet its obligations. "Everything is clear here: there is no embargo on supplies, and we are implementing contracts signed earlier, that is we are fulfilling obligations we have taken upon ourselves," the source was quoted as saying.
US Secretary of State John Kerry has also warned that any such sale would be "potentially destabilising" for the region.