Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: Syria cannot be Iranian base for terrorism and aggression
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has given an interview to Interfax ahead of his visit to Russia in which he speaks about the influence that his personal relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin have on the development of interstate ties, about Israel‘s plans regarding new gas fields and said that Israel will into allow Syria to turn into a source of aggression. This will be Netanyahu‘s third visit in under a year.Question: Mr. Netanyahu, what is the reason for such intense contacts? Does this mean that Russia is a privileged foreign political partner for Israel? What influence does your personal relationship with the Russian president have on the development of interstate ties?
Answer: Russia is an important global power and Israel is an important regional power. President Putin and I understand the value of the ties between our two countries, which have steadily improved over the last quarter of a century. Our relationship has enhanced Russia-Israel cooperation and I expect that this trip will only add to that.
Q.: Your visit to Russia six months ago ended in an important agreement on the creation of a mechanism of coordination between the Israeli and Russian military near Syria. Are there plans to deepen and expand coordination between the militaries of the two counties?
A.: Our coordination mechanism has already proven itself. We would both benefit from strengthening it further.
Q.: How tight is cooperation and information exchange between Israel and Russia in the sphere of combating terrorist and extremist groups? Do you intend to enhance it in the future?
A.: Militant Islamic terrorism poses a grave threat to Israel, to Russia and to the entire world. I have no doubt that we will defeat it, but our victory will come faster when the nations of world stand together.
Q.: Your country has been neutral since the start of the Syrian crisis. Do you think that there is a place for Bashar al-Assad in future Syria? And what is your attitude to the prospects of Syria‘s federalization?
A.: We have made a point of staying out of the Syrian conflict, with two exceptions: treating wounded Syrians on a humanitarian basis and preventing Iran from using Syria to attack Israel or to transfer sophisticated weapons to Hezbollah. We don‘t know what will come of Syria, but in any arrangement, it cannot be an Iranian base for terrorism and aggression.
Q.: Will you again insist during your visit to Moscow on guarantees that Russian arms do not fall into the hands of the pro-Iranian Hezbollah movement and on establishing certain mechanisms for preventing this? Do you see Moscow listening to your arguments?
A.: Israel will continue to share its concerns with the Russian government regarding Hezbollah. This terrorist group has called for the murder of every Jew and therefore must be prevented from acquiring advanced weaponry from anyone. Hezbollah launched thousands of missiles at our civilians and we will not allow them to amass even more sophisticated weaponry on our border.
Q.: Israel has blamed Iran for ballistic missile tests and even accuses it of creating missiles that are capable of carrying nuclear warheads. Do you have any proof? For example, Moscow does not see in Tehran‘s actions any violation of UN Security Council resolutions. Will Israel take unilateral measures if Iran again launches missiles? Will you coordinate your actions with the United States in order to neutralize this irritant?
A.: Iran has repeatedly violated its international obligations not to develop and test ballistic missiles. Furthermore, it has broadcast its intentions by literally writing on those missiles "Israel will be wiped out." Israel will continue to encourage countries around the world to hold Iran‘s feet to the fire and hold it accountable when it violates its international obligations.
Q.: Is the format of international mediators on the Israeli-Palestinian settlement still up-to-date at the current stage? Are you in general interested in mediation, including on the part of Moscow?
A.: Israel has twice forged peace treaties with our Arab neighbors that have lasted for decades. This came about through direct and bilateral negotiations. We hope countries around the world urge the Palestinian leadership to sit down with us in order to talk peace. The problems of the Middle East can ultimately only be solved by those living in the Middle East.
Q.: Russian companies are interested in projects to produce natural gas on Israel‘s Mediterranean shelf. Do you see prospects for cooperation in this sphere, including for example with Gazprom on the Leviathan project?
A.: We only recently passed the legal framework to extract natural gas from our fields in the Mediterranean. This is a revolutionary new development for Israel‘s economy and we are now beginning to explore how to best take advantage of this resource for Israel and for the region.