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There is hardly anyone to have held as many talks with President Vladimir Putin as the head of the Israeli government over the last two years: he has five visits and twelve telephone contacts to his name.
The current visit's official occasion was the transfer to Israel of the remains of an Israeli tanker who died in Lebanon in June 1982. In this regard, the Russian President stressed that the location of the soldier's burial site was carried out by the Syrian military, while the exhumation and transportation of the remains was carried out by a group of Russian special forces. And this amid the ongoing military operations in the terrorist-occupied territory.
In turn, Benjamin Netanyahu admitted that almost the entire intelligence community of Israel was engaged in the search for the tanker's burial site, and only the Russian military intelligence proved able to execute the operation to transfer the soldier's body to his homeland for burial.
In Israel, liberation of prisoners of war or hostages is considered a sacred duty, as well as the burial of those killed in battle or missing. The state endeavors all the measures available in order to find the remains and bring them home. Therefore, Israel will undoubtedly see the true value of the Syrian and Russian military this time round.
It is already known that the high-profile funeral ceremony for the Israeli tanker will be held at the highest state level involving great masses of population, and the burial will take place at one of the most honorable places. All this is certainly intended to assert the position of the Jewish state's current leadership ahead of the April 9 legislative elections.
However, we should not assume that Benjamin Netanyahu's trip to Moscow was driven by his willingness to express gratitude to President Vladimir Putin alone. According to sketchy data of the Israeli media, the Prime Minister passed a Syria settlement plan on to the Russian side, which had been allegedly agreed with Donald Trump somewhat earlier.
It's a safe bet that a cornerstone of the Israeli idea is the condition of a complete withdrawal of the Iranian military and units of the Lebanese Hezbollah movement from Syria. At the same time, it is yet to be seen what Damascus and Moscow will get in return. Making wild guesses is no good, and the scale and importance of dividends may appear quite different.
But the point to note is that Tel Aviv's proposals (if any) can fall onto fertile soil like a healthy seed... The case is that Iran managed to "push" Syria into expanding bilateral cooperation in accordance with the previously signed treaty of friendship and mutual assistance after all. Thus, March this year witnessed the Syrians agree to use the country's northern seaport of Latakia (there is also a naval base there) for the incoming Iranian ships.
Tehran has long been raising the question of using Syrian ports in the Mediterranean Sea: in 2011 Moscow induced Damascus to reject the Iranian proposal on establishing a naval base in Tartus. With a modicum of Russia the Iran-Syria agreement to jointly develop phosphate deposits in Syria proved legally incompetent.
At the same time, Iran insists that Syria compensate for billion-dollar loans to supply weapons and military equipment, oil and gas, and finally, the direct participation of its military personnel in hostilities on the side of government troops.
Apart from that, the Iranians obtained a consent in principle to restore and construct a railway track from Latakia to Iraq in order to arrange direct traffic between Iran and Syria, and get access to the Mediterranean Sea. However, this is a long-run prospect.
Syria is currently very much reliant on economic, financial and military assistance from Iran that almost completely covers the needs of its partner as regards energy resources alone. Suffice it to note that 380 thousand barrels of crude oil were produced daily before the Syrian crisis. And today, the production stands at about 70 thousand barrels, of which less than 50 percent goes to the government.
Nearly all the major hydrocarbon deposits are located in the territory controlled by the armed forces of the Syrian Democratic Forces created by the Pentagon. Pursuant to the US-imposed sanctions, Syria found itself lacking energy sources.
Russia is fully aware of the Syrian leadership's reluctant assent to enable Iran's use of the port of Latakia. For the Syrians, this will become an additional channel for obtaining Iranian oil and oil products. On the other hand, with the advent of Iranian transport vessels carrying military cargos, there is an increasing threat that those, as well as docking facilities, ships of the Russian and Syrian navies are going to be hit by Israel which will never resign itself to Iran's military activity in the region.
Ankara is unlikely to be pleased to see Iran becoming empowered to use the seaport of Latakia for military purposes. And the very idea of building and exploiting the railway in northern Syria by the Iranians contradicts the Turkish plans.
A way out is seen in an early completion of the TurkStream gas pipeline construction and gas supplies to Syria.