Russia on future relations with Israel: ‘Too early to know’
Cooperation between two countries hangs in balance as government in Moscow says 'only defense experts can assess quality of Israeli findings,’ following deadly incident off Latakia coast; Kremlin denies report Putin ignored Assad's phone call.
Despite the reassuring messages by Israel following the downing of the Russian aircraft, the government in Moscow conveyed a more chilly tone on Friday, saying it is "too early to know" whether relations between the two states will be normalized.
The comments were made by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov after the findings of the investigation were presented to the Russians by IAF chief Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin on Thursday.
The Russian Sputnik news network reported that Peskov said that Russian President Vladimir Putin is aware of the details of the IDF investigation—but "only the Defense Ministry experts will be able to assess whether the Israeli information will suffice."
Peskov vehemently denied Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz's remarks that Putin had refused to answer Syrian President Bashar Assad's phone calls following the plane's downing and said they were not correct.
"The president made it clear that the incident does not require further explanation," he stressed.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Friday that Israel should continue to investigate the plane's downing which occurred during an IAF raid in Latakia earlier this week.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu first blamed Israel and promised that Moscow would not allow the incident to simply be overlooked, but Peskov said Putin himself called the incident "a chain of unfortunate event."
On Friday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a consultation with the top echelons of the security forces and heard a detailed report from the commander of the air force, Norkin, on the talks in Moscow. Netanyahu instructed to continue the ongoing talks with the Russians.
A senior IDF source said that the Syrian Air Force had fired more than 20 missiles, including large SA-5 missiles that hit the Russian Ilyushin 20 aircraft.
The source noted that the coordination mechanism between the Russian military and Israel was still working successfully on Friday as part of a "routine operation."
He added that at the meeting, the Russians were presented with the recording of the hotline between the air force commander in the Kirya and the Russian base in Syria.
"Our notification of the operation was given more than a minute before the attack (contrary to the Russian claim),” the official exclaimed.
“We left them a copy of the recording, as well as the main points of the investigation. We showed them proof regarding the site being attacked, the significance of the attack and its consequences. We feel that our data has been received in an objective and transparent manner. The claim that we used the Russian plane as provocation is incorrect and we proved it," he concluded.
In the meantime, Russia is increasing its activities in the eastern Mediterranean. Earlier, the Russians issued an announcement restricting flights over many areas of Cyprus' airspace and the area adjacent to the Syrian coast due to Russian military operations. The airspace closure will continue until Wednesday.
The military exercise announced by the Russians is expected to affect the flight routes controlled by the regional control tower in Cyprus, including flights to Israel, Lebanon and Syria.