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Israel's Take on IL-20 Incident Undermines Tel-Aviv's Ties to Russia - Scholar

© Sputnik / Alexander Tarasenkov / Go to the mediabankIL-20
IL-20 - Sputnik International
Against the backdrop of cooperation between Russia and Israel, the destruction of the Russian Il-20 plane off Syria's coast as a result of a dangerous IAF operation seems to underscore a lack of gratitude on Israel's part, Vitaly Naumkin, head of the Arab Studies Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of Oriental Studies, told Sputnik.

"The Israelis flew to bomb the territories near Latakia, which are very close to territories where Russian servicemen are deployed. What need was there to carry out a bombardment when our planes were flying in the area? Our jet was flying, are you telling me that they did not know about it? How could they carry out a bombardment, missile and bomb strikes deep inside Syria, knowing full well that they endangered [the Russian] Aerospace Forces? They warned us [about the Israeli Air Force's operation] just in a minute before [the Israeli aircraft] took off. That does not fall within the framework of cooperation existing between our countries," Naumkin said.

READ MORE: Russian MoD: Israel Violated Agreement With Russia to Prevent Incidents in Syria

According to Naumkin, taking into account the existing cooperation between Russia and the Jewish state, Israel's actions look like "inexplicable ingratitude."

"We have done a lot for Israel and always respected Israel's interests, since the Soviet times, even when we did not have the normal relations that we enjoy today — a close cooperation, a very close partnership. It is unclear why [Israel] attempts to ruin the friendship that we have today," Naumkin pointed out.

He recalled that in July the Iranian troops in Syria withdrew at the Jewish state's behest from the demarcation line with Israel in the Golan Heights.

"There are no more Shia formations there, unless, several advisers might have remained in the army. There is no heavy equipment, no weapons that might pose a threat to Israel. We worked with our Iranian partners in order to ensure that," Naumkin stated.

He recalled that Russia also took into account Israel's position and interests in the conflict between the Jewish state and Palestinians.

"The year 2016 was such a complicated year; it was the last year of [Barack] Obama's presidency [in the United States]. In the summer, Russia immediately agreed with [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu's proposal to hold talks in Moscow between [the Israeli Prime Minister] and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas without preconditions. Moscow quickly organized that," Naumkin underlined.

He reminded that as early as in late 2016, the United States put forward an unacceptable formula for settling the Middle Eastern conflict by introducing a new resolution at the UN Security Council, which was unacceptable both for Israel and Palestine.

"[then-US State Secretary John] Kerry exerted pressure on [Russian Foreign Minister Sergey] Lavrov, urging him to agree on that resolution. Russia did not do that… And instead of gratitude, we receive today such a cowardly move, with the Israeli jets using a defenseless Russian surveillance aircraft as a shield. Meanwhile, Syria has not carried out any attacks against Israel in recent years, has not engaged in any acts of violence [towards its neighbor]. The border [between Israel and Syria] has been secure," Naumkin stressed.

He believed that since Israel did not rush to apologize and continued to insist on its own version of events, the incident could hardly be considered as settled.

"I believe that the incident is far from being settled… The cooperation in all fields, in which the both parties are interested, has been affected. The trust has been lost. [Though, the friendship] will not be ruined, I think, a way to reach an agreement will be found," Naumkin indicated.

He also suggested that intensive negotiations and the visits of Israeli delegations to Russia would continue.

READ MORE: Israel Can't Get Away With Il-20 Downing in Syria — IR Scholars

"I know that another group will come [to Russia] this week. It is said that it would be a mixed delegation comprising diplomats, politicians and servicemen. Of course, we have certain conditions that will be submitted to Israel in order to mitigate the negative impressions provoked by this Israeli move, which was certainly an unfriendly one. We will have to search for a compromise, because we are interested in the continuation of cooperation," Naumkin emphasized.

On Thursday, an Israeli military delegation led by Israeli Air Force Commander Amikam Norkin visited Moscow in a bid to prove Israel's non-involvement in the tragedy. Meanwhile, a high-level source in the Israeli army said that the Israeli servicemen had provided data alleging that Syria fired over 20 missiles after the Israeli jets had left and were preparing to land. Netanyahu heard a report on the outcome of talks in Moscow and ordered that the contacts with Russia on the issue should be continued.

The Russian Il-20 military aircraft, which was 22 miles off the Syrian coast, was shot down on Monday, while returning to Hmeymim Airbase. At the same time, four Israeli F-16 aircraft were bombing Syrian targets in the province of Latakia. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, Israel notified Russia of the airstrikes only a minute before they started. The ministry said that the Israeli pilots used the Russian aircraft as a shield against Syrian air defense systems. As a result, the Il-20 was downed by a missile launched from a Syrian S-200 air defense system. The incident claimed the lives of 15 Russian servicemen.

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