JERUSALEM (AA) – Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Thursday reiterated assertions that Israel was not seeking confrontation with Russia in Syria.
“We are not looking for any confrontation with Russia,” Israeli Public Radio quoted Lieberman as saying.
“On the contrary, in recent years, there was an open and transparent dialogue with Russia — both when our opinions have been compatible and [when they have been] incompatible,” he added.
Lieberman went on to warn that Israel would target Russia-supplied S-300 air defense batteries, however, if Syrian regime forces used them against Israeli aircraft.
According to Israeli radio, Lieberman made the remarks in a Thursday interview with Russian daily Kommersant.
“Israel does not intend to interfere in Syria's internal affairs; [Syrian] President Bashar al-Assad would do well not to work against us,” the hardline defense minister was quoted as saying.
“Israel takes into account Russian interests and hopes Moscow will also take into account our security interests in the Middle East,” he said.
Lieberman went on to say there was a “delicate line between the IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] and Russian army forces in Syria”.
He also reiterated the Israeli government’s opposition to an Iranian military presence in Syria, saying that “Iranian activities [in Syria] will be thwarted”.
“What we won’t tolerate are attempts by Iran to turn Syria into a forward operating base against Israel,” he asserted. “Any such attempt will be thwarted.”
In recent months, Israel has repeatedly been accused of carrying out attacks in Syria, including one in April — on Syria’s T4 military airbase — that reportedly left several Iranian military personnel dead.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has met several times in recent months with Russian President Vladimir Putin with a view to preventing possible clashes between the Israeli and Russian militaries in Syria.