A meeting scheduled on Thursday February 21st in Moscow between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Putin for talks on Iranian military activity in Syria has been postponed, according to an Israeli official.
However, the two leaders decided to hold discussions over the phone on Thursday instead, the official said on condition of anonymity Wednesday February 20th, adding that a new date for the meeting would be set as soon as possible. It was described as a postponement of several days.
The official gave no reason for the postponement but Israeli media said it was related to Netanyahu's strategising with allied right-wing parties regarding April 9th elections ahead of a Thursday deadline for electoral lists to be submitted.
A Kremlin official, Yuri Ushakov, told Russian state news agency Ria Novosti that the date of the meeting had been shifted due to Israeli internal political reasons.
Since a friendly fire incident in September that led to a Russian plane being downed by Syrian air defences during an Israeli raid, which angered Russia, this meeting would have been the first extensive face-to-face meeting.
Netanyahu and Putin, who have spoken by phone several times since the incident, met in Paris in November on the sidelines of World War I commemorations.
Many airstrikes were carried out by Israel on Syrian land against what it describes as Iranian and Hezbollah targets, and the Jewish state and Russia have set up a "de-confliction" hotline to avoid accidental clashes.
Netanyahu has pledged to stop Israel's main enemy Iran from entrenching itself militarily in the neighbouring country.
Both Russia and Iran are allies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and have helped his forces inflict numerous defeats on rebels and jihadists.