SYRIA (OBSERVATORY) – Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Friday that the presence of Russia in Syria does not anger Israel because Moscow is a “pragmatic” party, but it is still possible to reach an agreement with him.
“It is important to understand something that the Russians are very pragmatic players,” Lieberman said in response to questions about the alliance between Moscow and Tehran in Syria at a forum organized by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
“They are ultimately logical people, and agreements can be reached with them, and we understand their interests,” he said.
“Their interests are very different from our interests, but we respect their priorities, we try to avoid direct friction and tension.”
The Russian army has an air base in Hameimim, northwest Syria, and a naval base in Tartus (west).
But the Russian presence in Syria “does not concern us,” Lieberman stressed, adding, “All we want is to protect our own security.”
Lieberman made his remarks two days after the publication of an interview with Ynet, in which he threatened to attack the Russian S-300 advanced air defense system, which Moscow plans to supply to Syrian forces if used against Israeli targets.
In 2010, Moscow signed an agreement with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime to hand over the S-300 air defense batteries, but Damascus has yet to receive the rockets, especially because of Israeli pressure, the Russian daily Kommersant reported.
Israel has already launched strikes against Syrian regime positions or arms shipments it said were from Iran and were aimed at the Lebanese Hezbollah, which is fighting alongside the regime’s forces.