Netanyahu off to Paris for World War I commemorations, Putin meeting 'up in air'
AP Photo/Oded Balilty, Pool
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was ready for takeoff Saturday on his way to Paris to join in commemorations in honor of 100 years since the end of World War I.
Earlier this week Netanyahu was reportedly considering cancelling his trip to France, where he was originally scheduled to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin.
There were suggestions that Russia canceled the meeting between the leaders due to continuing tension over Israeli air strikes in Syria.
However, according to a report by Israeli Kan news broadcast, France asked that the meeting between Putin and Netanyahu not take place on the sidelines of the World War I commemorations.
"We respect the French request not to have sideline meetings," Netanyahu told journalists at Tel Aviv's David Ben Gurion airport before his flight to Paris.
Other leaders were already in attendance including United States President Donald Trump, who drew criticism on Saturday along with his wife for canceling a trip to Belleau Wood battlefield and cemetery in northern France, which was visited by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
In September, a Russian plane was mistakenly downed by Syrian air defense, killing 15 serviceman on board, during an Israeli air strike in Latakia.
Russia blamed the downing of its plane on Israel for not notifying it about its airstrikes in time for the Russian plane to steer clear of any danger.
Russia’s Ambassador to Israel Anatoly Viktorov reportedly told The Times of Israel this week that Moscow’s defense establishment remains “extremely disappointed” with Israel’s handling of the incident.
Netanyahu apologized to Putin following the downing of the plane, but said he was sure that the dispute would be settled.
The issue of Israel’s duty to notice Russia in time before it strikes in Syria was raised again on Monday by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. In an interview with Spanish newspaper el Pais, Lavrov said Israel’s continuing strikes in Syria endanger Russian troops.
Meanwhile, Israel’s Environmental Protection Minister, Ze’ev Elkin, warned Russia on Tuesday that its newly deployed missile defense system in Syria would be the target of airstrikes if Bashar al-Assad’s army decides to make use of it against Israeli airplanes conducting operations in the war torn country.
During the France visit, Netanyanhu is scheduled to meet with Macron and may also meet Merkel, Israeli television news Channel 10 reported.
The two leaders met just last month during Merkel’s visit to the Jewish state to honor its 70 years of independence, hailing flourishing ties between their states as a “gift” in light of their shared history.
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