Russia sees military coordination with Israel on Syria continuing

FILE PHOTO: Internally displaced refugees across the Golan Heights protest near the border between Israel and Syria as it is seen from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights

By Dan Williams

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Russia sees its military coordination with Israel over Syria continuing, the Russian embassy said on Saturday, after Moscow signalled displeasure with Israeli statements about the Ukraine crisis.

Following the 2015 Russian intervention in the Syrian civil war, Israel set up a "deconfliction mechanism" with the big power to prevent them clashing inadvertently during Israeli strikes against Iranian deployments and arms transfers in the neighbouring Arab state.

"Our military officials discuss the practical issues of this substantively on a daily basis. This mechanism has proven to be useful and will continue to work," the Russian embassy in Israel said in a statement.

But while voicing support for Israel's security needs, it also reiterated opposition to violations of Syrian sovereignty.

The Israeli military, asked about prospects for continued coordination with Russia over Syria, said only that its forces "will act when needed to counter threats, defend the people of Israel and our sovereignty".

Israel, whose main ally is the United States, condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Thursday as "a serious violation of international order" and has since remained largely muted on Moscow's actions.

In response, Moscow - which calls its actions in Ukraine a "special operation" - summoned the Israeli ambassador for talks. Russia's U.N. mission restated opposition to Israel's occupation of the Golan Heights. Israel captured the strategic plateau from Syria in a 1967 war and annexed it, a move that won U.S. recognition in 2019.

The United States said on Thursday that there were no changes in its deconfliction mechanism with Russia over Syria, though the Ukraine crisis has sent Washington-Moscow relations spiralling.

(Reporting by Dan Williams)