Israel is not concerned by Russia's military presence in neighboring Syria because Moscow is a "pragmatic actor" with whom deals can be struck, Israel's Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said during a visit to Washington on Friday.
"What is important to understand is that the Russians, they are very pragmatic players," said Lieberman during a discussion on the alliance between Russia, Syria and Iran at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
"At the end of the day, they are reasonable guys, it's possible to close deals with them and we understand what is their interest," said Lieberman, a Russian-speaker who grew up in the Soviet Union.
"Their interest is very different from our interest but we respect their priorities," he said. "We try to avoid direct frictions and tensions."
Lieberman was talking three days after the Israeli news site Ynet published an interview in which he threatened to attack Russian S-300 anti-aircraft batteries that could be delivered to the Syrian military and used to target Israeli aircraft.
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov yesterday hosted his Iranian and Turkey counterparts for talks on Syria in the wake of an alleged chemical attack that has exposed differences between the three powers.
The three nations have been attempting to find a political solution to the Syrian conflict at talks that started last year in Astana, Kazakhstan, in competition with the US and UN-backed Geneva initiative.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov held separate bilateral talks with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu and then Iran's Mohammad Javad Zarif, who stressed the warmth of their relationship in opening comments. These were to be followed by three-sided talks.
Both Tehran and Moscow have deployed military forces to Syria to back up Assad in his now seven-year-old war against anti-government rebels.