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Netanyahu says cooperation with Russia ‘critical’ with U.S. to leave Syria

Israel has “great challenges around us” and it’s cooperation with Russia is “critical,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday, a day after US President Donald Trump announced his intention to withdraw troops from Syria and allow a Turkish incursion there against Kurdish forces.

Netanyahu made the comments at a holiday toast with workers in his office, during which he relayed that he just had a telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Netanyahu phoned Putin to wish him a happy birthday.

“I met with him a few weeks ago about issues that are important for the security of the State of Israel, and this conversation as well was important to Israel’s security,” he said. Though he did not provide details, the Netanyahu-Putin conversation is believed to have dealt with the changing dynamics in Syria resulting from the White House’s dramatic announcement on Sunday.

“We have great challenges around us, but we enjoy important cooperation and coordination with Russia, something that is critical for us, and which we will continue to deal with,” he said.

Netanyahu last met Putin in the Black Sea resort of Sochi just five days before the September 17 election. This was their 13th meeting since September 2015, when Russia became militarily involved in Syria, and the two countries set up a deconfliction mechanism to prevent their two militaries from clashing.

While the PMO and Foreign Ministry did not relate to Trump’s move, Blue and White’s Yair Lapid – who if his party is part of the next government would be a leading candidate for foreign minister – issued a statement saying that the world “has a moral responsibility to the Kurds who led the fight against ISIS and paid with their blood.”

Lapid said that he joins US senators Lindsey Graham and Chris Van Hollen’s calls to impose sanctions of Turkey and suspend it from NATO in response to attacks on the Kurds in northern Syria, and also encouraged Trump to make “the cost of any such attack absolutely clear to Erdogan.”

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