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Israel to try to normalize relations with Russia after incident with Il-20 plane — experts

Israel is not interested in the sharp deterioration of relations with Russia after the incident with Russia’s Il-20 plane near Syrian shore, as the situation in the Middle East region is extremely difficult, said experts questioned by TASS on Sunday, commenting on statements made by the Russian Defense Ministry on the tragedy.

"It is an emergency situation, and it is not in Israel’s interests to allow sharp deterioration of relations with Russia, which is playing a key role in the region in fact," said expert from the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies Vladimir Fitin. "So, I think that Israel’s government will do all that is possible to settle this situation."

"We already had sad experience of relations with Turkey after they had downed our plane, but we still managed to bring relations to satisfactory condition and even more," he went on. "It seems to me that no one wants an additional source of controversy and confrontation in this sensitive region."

Doctor of Historical Sciences, chief research worker at the Center for Arab and Islamic Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) Irina Zvyagelskaya shares this opinion. "I hope very much that the government of our countries will manage to improve the situation somehow, because the situation in the Middle East is very difficult in fact. Another conflict, another vector of tension would be very dangerous," she said.

"I hope that apologies will be gradually made, and there will be attempts [from the Israeli side] to provide some explanations. The situation can be improved still, so that it won’t go any further," Zvyagelskaya added. The RAS expert noted that the incident with the Il-20 already negatively affected Russia-Israel relations. Any fraudulent intent is doubtful, she said, "but what was done there was evidently some unwillingness to execute the undertaken obligations or disregard for these obligations - and it is truly so."

"I believe that this incident hit hard our relations," Zvyagelskaya noted. "They were based on confidence, on the understanding of our interests in this region, and we understood their interests and tried not to come into conflict over these issues."

The closed sky

The experts did not share their views on which steps Moscow may take at the current stage. Still, the analytical experts believe that the issue of the deliveries of S-300 air-defense missile systems instead of S-200s, which the Syrian air defense forces are using now, to Syria may be discussed at some level. In 2010, Moscow undertook these obligations, but the deliveries were postponed, as they raised serious concerns in Israel. If Damascus receives S-300s, it will enable Syrian servicemen down modern planes on their territory and actually "close" the airspace.

"It is difficult to tell whether this move will be done or not, but I want to stress that any such steps that solve problems create new ones," Zvyagelskaya said.

"It is very difficult to forecast (the possibility of the S-300 deliveries to Syria - TASS)," Fitin noted, for his part. "This is a key issue for Israel, because S-300s will block the operation of Israel’s aircraft. Depending on the further moves of the Israeli administration, this issue may be revisited, but I think it won’t come to this."

The statement of the Russian Defense Ministry

Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Igor Konashenkov stated on Sunday that the Israeli Air Force and those who took the decision to use the Russian plane as cover are to blame for the downing of Il-20 in Syria.

The Il-20 electronic reconnaissance plane was shot down on the evening of September 17 over the Mediterranean Sea when it was returning to the Hmeymim Airbase. The Russian Defense Ministry reported that it was downed by a missile from Syria’s S-200 air defense missile system when it was carrying out an attack on four Israeli F-16 planes that had attacked facilities in the Latakia Governorate. The ministry stressed that Israel’s pilots used the Russian Il-20 as cover and put it under the fire.

[Source: Itar Tass, Moscow, 24Sep18]

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