Israel PM ‘deeply concerned’ over Russia-Iran military ties

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid expressed Thursday “deep concern” over Russia and Iran’s military ties in a conversation with Ukraine’s foreign minister, after Moscow allegedly used Iran-made drones to attack Ukraine.

In a phone call between Lapid and Dmytro Kuleba, the Israeli premier “received an update on the war in Ukraine, and emphasised that Israel stands with the Ukrainian people,” a statement from Lapid’s office said.

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“In their conversation, the prime minister emphasised his deep concern about the military ties between Iran and Russia,” the statement said.

A senior official in this context cited to AFP on condition of anonymity the transfer of Iranian drones to Russia.

Ukraine accused Russia of using four Iranian-made drones to bomb Kyiv on Monday and said its air defences have shot down 223 Iranian drones since mid-September.

The Kremlin says it has no knowledge of its army using Iranian drones in Ukraine and Tehran has said the claims that it is providing Russia with weapons are “baseless”.

The conversation between Lapid and Kuleba comes the same day Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz was set to speak with his Ukrainian counterpart Oleksii Reznikov.

Earlier Thursday, Gantz’s office said the call had been put off “at the request of the Ukrainians.”

On Wednesday, Gantz said his country would not sell weapon systems to Ukraine, two days after Russia warned that an Israeli move to bolster Kyiv’s forces would severely damage relations.

Gantz’s remarks came after Ukraine officially asked Israel to supply it with air defence systems to intercept Iranian drones and ballistic missiles.

In the request, published by Axios, Ukraine also requests that Israel train its forces in operating the systems.

Israel has walked a delicate diplomatic line since the start of the Russian invasion, seeking to preserve ties with Moscow.

Israel needs Russian cooperation to continue its campaign of air strikes in neighbouring Syria, where Russian forces are present and where Israel frequently hits what it calls Iranian-linked targets.

Israeli officials have also stressed the need to safeguard relations with Russia given the large number of Jews in the country and to avoid a return to Cold War era conditions, when Soviet Jews were largely cut off from Israel.

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