April 2, 2019 / 8:08 AM / 7 months ago

Israel's Netanyahu to meet Putin in Moscow on Thursday

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures as he speaks during a news conference in Jerusalem April 1, 2019. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun/Files

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will fly to Moscow on Thursday to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Israeli leader’s office said on Tuesday.

The statement did not elaborate on the intended topics of discussion. The two leaders will meet five days before Israel’s April 9 election in which the right-wing Netanyahu faces a strong challenge from a centrist candidate.

On Monday, Netanyahu told reporters he and Putin spoke by telephone about Syria, whose Russian-backed president, Bashar al-Assad, has been gaining ground in an eight-year civil war.

Israel worries Assad’s Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah reinforcements could set up bases to attack it from Syria, and has carried out scores of air strikes against them.

Thursday’s meeting could also help Netanyahu in the closely contested election, in which he has played up his statecraft and security credentials in the face of the politically untested challenger Benny Gantz, a former military chief.

Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Andrew Cawthorne

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