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    Kremlin Denies Russia Rejected Offer on Netanyahu Visit After Il-20 Downing

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    Earlier in the day, Israeli media reported that Moscow allegedly turned down an Israeli offer on the visit by its high-ranking officials following last week’s downing of a Russian military plane off the Syrian coast.

    The Kremlin spokesman has denied Israeli media reports which claimed that Moscow had rejected Tel Aviv's offer on a visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman after the downing of the Il-20 in Syria.

    "This is not true. The newspaper [Haaretz] provides incorrect information. From the very beginning, there was a proposal by the Israeli prime minister to send a military delegation headed by the commander of the air force, which was done," Dmitry Peskov told journalists.

    He added that the Israeli military brought its information on the Il-20 crash, while Russia had provided its own detailed data on the incident.

    The statement comes after the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported, citing sources on Wednesday, saying that in the immediate wake of the downing of a Russian Il-20 military reconnaissance plane by a Syrian anti-aircraft missile over the Mediterranean, Moscow rejected Israeli attempts to send senior political officials to Russia.

    Israel had initially planned to send a delegation headed by National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat to Moscow that would have included representatives of the Israeli Air Force and military General Staff to sort out the problem.

    According to the newspaper, the possibility was also raised that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman would go to Moscow to attempt to calm things down.

    Russia, however, preferred that the contacts remain at the professional level, between Israel Air Force Commander Amikam Norkin Norkin and the commander of the Russian air force, the newspaper wrote.

    In the end, Norkin arrived in Moscow at the head of a delegation of senior military officials to discuss the incident.

    During a meeting with his Russian counterpart, Andrei Yudin, Norkin shared data detailing the tragic destruction of the Russian military plane over the Mediterranean near the Syrian coast.

    On Tuesday, Benjamin Netanyahu said that he and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin had agreed to have the two countries’ military delegations meeting to discuss a mechanism to prevent such incidents from ever happening again. 

    ​Later in the day, Netanyahu flew to New York to attend an ongoing session of the UN General Assembly.

    On Wednesday he is due to meet with President Donald Trump for talks, which Haaretz believes will focus on Israel’s current tensions with Russia and the situation in Syria.

    Late on Monday, September 17, a Russian Il-20 electronic reconnaissance plane was mistakenly shot down by Syrian air defenses, killing all 15 crewmen on board after Israeli missiles struck the coastal region of Syria's Latakia province.

    Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, said that around that time, four Israeli F-16 fighters attacked Syrian targets in Latakia, and accused Israeli pilots of using "the Russian plane as a cover, exposing it to fire from Syrian air defenses."

    READ MORE: Russia Capable of Denying Israel Access to Syrian Airspace — Senior Russian MP

    The Defense Ministry said Israeli aircraft deliberately created a dangerous situation in Latakia and that Israel had not warned the Russian military command in Syria about the planned airstrikes.

    Israel said that its jets were already back in their home airspace when Syrian forces launched the missiles that hit the Russian plane.

    Israel and Russia maintain close contacts as they try to smooth over tensions surrounding last week’s incident, Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in an interview with the local Russian-language Channel 9 TV.

    "In recent years, we have attacked Iranian facilities or Hezbollah facilities 200 times. Not a single Russian soldier was hurt because we carefully stick to all agreements maintaining all contacts, all coordination and all points of interaction with the Russian side. It would be strange if we violated this on the 201st occasion, wouldn’t it? The entire responsibility lies with the army (of Syrian President Bashar) Assad," the minister added.

    When asked if Israel will continue to operate in Syria like it has done before, Lieberman said: "We will always defend our interests. We can’t afford any compromises about our security, whether it is our geography, topography or the size of our country."

    On Tuesday, the Israeli government instructed the country's armed forces to continue its operations against the Iranian military presence in Syria while maintaining coordination with Russia on security issues.

    Related:

    Russian Defense Ministry's Statement on Il-20 Downing Justified, Balanced - MP
    Russian MoD Has Compelling Evidence to Back Up Account of Il-20's Last Moments
    Israel to Continue Military Op in Syria Despite Il-20 Downing – Lieberman
    Tags:
    Russian plane, meetings, downing, tensions, F-16, Il-20, Russian Aerospace Forces, Andrei Yudin, Amikam Norkin, Donald Trump, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel, Russia
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