Russian envoy seeks to reassure Israel on Syria drawdown

( Russian envoy to Israel Alexey Drobinin attempted to assuage fears in Israel over his country’s surprise announcement on Monday that it would begin to drawdown its forces in Syria.

A Russian Sukhoi Su-24 fighter jet in Latakia, Syria. Credit: Wikimedia Commons. 

"We will try to ensure that this (Syria) crisis is resolved, and we will also do everything so that Israel's national security interests are not harmed in the process," Drobinin told Yedioth Ahronoth, without elaborating.

On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin out of the blue announced that “the main part” of Russian armed forces will begin to withdraw from Syria, but that Russian forces will remain in a limited capacity at its naval base in Tartus and Hmeymim airbase.

In separate remarks to Israeli Army Radio, Drobinin said that Russia will remain mindful of Israel’s concerns.

"Israel is a neighboring country. It cannot be indifferent to what is happening in Syria. We take this into account, of course," he said. "We have an ongoing dialogue with the Israeli side on all levels - the military level and diplomatic level."

Israeli military officials said they were also surprised by the Russian move.

“We had no prior information about the Russian announcement of a reduction in its involvement, just as others didn’t,” Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot said at a Knesset hearing on Tuesday morning.

Meanwhile, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin arrived in Moscow on Tuesday evening ahead of a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday. While Rivlin’s trip to Moscow was planned before the surprise announcement on Monday, Rivlin said that he will take the opportunity to focus on Russia’s military draw down in Syria and potential threats to Israel from Iran, as well as terror groups like Hezbollah and the Islamic State. 

Posted on March 15, 2016 .