Putin, Netanyahu, meet in Moscow ahead of Israeli elections

The two leaders reportedly discussed events in Syria just days before Netanyahu runs for re-election.

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday thanked Russia for its assistance in finding the remains of an Israeli soldier missing since 1982 [Alexander Zemlianichenko/Reuters]
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday thanked Russia for its assistance in finding the remains of an Israeli soldier missing since 1982 [Alexander Zemlianichenko/Reuters]

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in Moscow on Thursday for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, five days before parliamentary elections are due to begin in Israel.

    The vote is largely seen as a referendum on Netanyahu, who has campaigned on his foreign policy prowess and relations with world leaders.

    The trip to Moscow, made at Netanyahu's request, came a week after a visit to Washington where he met US President Donald Trump at the White House.

    The Israeli prime minister, who is facing a tough election challenge from a popular former military chief and reeling from a series of corruption allegations, has repeatedly sought to focus attention on his foreign policy record and his ties with Trump.

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    Netanyahu also hosted Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in Jerusalem earlier this week.

    He is seeking a fifth term in the elections next Tuesday.

    Before departing from Israel, Netanyahu said he and Putin would "discuss events in Syria", including the "special coordination between our militaries".

    The Kremlin had said earlier this week the two would "compare notes" during a brief meeting, the two leaders' third in recent months. Israel and Russia have a military hotline to coordinate air force operations over neighbouring Syria, where a civil war recently entered its ninth year.

    'Common values'

    On Wednesday, a day before the meeting, the Israeli army announced the recovery of the remains of a US-born Israeli soldier who went missing in a 1982 battle with Syrian forces in southern Lebanon following Israel's invasion of the country.

    Putin acknowledged that Russia had worked to retrieve Zachary Baumel's remains from Syria.

    He was 21 when he fought in Israel's invasion of Lebanon and was declared missing in action along with two other soldiers in the Battle of Sultan Yacoub in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley 37 years ago,

    "Our military together with Syrian partners established the place of his burial," Putin was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.

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    "We are very pleased that at home they can give him the necessary military honours."

    Meanwhile, Netanyahu was quoted as saying that he had asked Putin to help Israel find Baumel's remains two years ago, and that he was grateful to the Russian leader for his help,

    He said Baumel would be buried in Israel on Thursday.

    "I am grateful to you Mr President for your personal friendship, for your position," Russia's TASS news agency cited Netanyahu as saying.

    "We share common values."

    Netanyahu lauded the repatriation of Baumel's remains as an "expression of mutual responsibility and feeling of unity".

    SOURCE: News agencies