Putin, Netanyahu meet to discuss Syria

MOSCOW (AP) - Russian President Vladimir Putin held talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday that focused on the situation in Syria, amid concerns that Moscow could soon provide Damascus with advanced missiles.

Israeli officials have asked Russia to stop what they say is an imminent delivery of Russian S-300 air defense systems to Syria. Putin told Netanyahu at the start of their meeting in the Black Sea resort of Sochi that they would have a chance to talk about Syria. Neither leader mentioned the missiles in brief opening remarks.

Putin hailed what he described as close ties between the two countries, and Netanyahu responded in kind and invited Putin to make another trip to Israel.

Netanyahu added that the volatile situation in the Middle East requires action to improve security.

"The region around us is very unstable and explosive, and therefore I am glad for the opportunity to examine together new ways to stabilize the area and bring security and stability to the area," he said.

Russia has continued to ship weapons to Syria, despite the civil war there, but it so far has refrained from providing Damascus with the S-300s, a powerful weapon that has a range of up to 200 kilometers and the capability to track down and strike multiple targets simultaneously with lethal efficiency.

The weapon would mean a quantum leap in Syria's air defense capability, including against neighboring countries that oppose Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime.

Israel attacked suspected shipments of advanced Iranian missiles in Syria with back-to-back airstrikes this month. Israeli officials signaled there would be more attacks unless Syria refrains from trying to deliver such "game-changing" missiles to ally Hezbollah, an anti-Israel militia in Lebanon and key Syrian ally. Hezbollah said weapons shipments won't cease.

On Monday, Israeli Tourism Minister Uzi Landau accused Russia destabilizing the Middle East by selling weapons to Assad's regime. "Anyone who provides weaponry to terror organisations is siding with terror," Landau said.

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