Israel, Russia seek mechanism to coordinate army activities

Jerusalem, Oct 9 (IANS) Israeli and Russian military officials have met in Tel Aviv to sort out a mechanism that would prevent accidents between their forces as Russia continues its operations in Syria, the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) has said.

During the past week, meetings were held between Russian and Israeli delegations, headed by the deputies of chief of staffs of both countries, the IDF said in a statement released on Thursday night, Xinhua reported.

“The meetings dealt with establishing a mechanism of safety between both militaries in the region,” IDF said, with a follow-up meeting scheduled to take place in Moscow in the upcoming weeks.

Russian Deputy Chief of Staff Nikolai Bogdanovski arrived in Tel Aviv on Tuesday with a delegation of military officials. His Israeli counterpart, Yair Golan, hosted the meetings, two weeks after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed on the coordination during a meeting in Moscow.

Prior to the meetings, the IDF stated that the talks would focus on coordinating the activity of both armies in the “aerial, naval and electro-magnetic arenas.”

An Israeli defence official told the Walla! News website the initial meetings consisted of introductions and establishing a common ground, before actually starting to sort out its details.

He said that, apart from the risk of incidental clashes between the forces, there is also concern in the military that the Russian operation in the Syria would disrupt the operation of Israel’s radars deployed along the Syrian border.

Russia has been conducting air strikes in the past week in Syria against the Islamic State (IS). It boosted military presence in Syria which has been mired in a bloody civil war since 2011, claiming that it is aimed at crushing IS militants.

However, the US and its allies are concerned that Russia’s actions are not only aimed at defeating IS, but also against militant groups supported by the U.S. in their battle against the Syrian government.

Israeli officials have repeatedly stated that Israel does not intervene in the ongoing civil war in Syria, but rather act to defend Israel’s interests.

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