Russia’s special envoy to Syria visited five Middle Eastern capitals over the past several days, including Jerusalem, in order to present Moscow’s plan for diplomatic negotiations in war-torn Syria.

Alexander Lavrentiev, Russia’s special envoy to Syria, paid a low-key visit to Jerusalem on Thursday, where he met with senior Israeli officials following a UN decision earlier in the week to launch negotiations between Syrian President Hafez Assad’s allies and the rebel groups, Ha’aretz reported.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Israel daily continued, in a phone conversation last Tuesday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said there is no substitute for UN-backed talks between the two sides, according to a statement from the Kremlin.

Lavrentiev, who was personally appointed by Putin and took office only a few weeks ago, arrived in a Russian Air Force plane along with a large delegation, including Sergey Vershinin, head of the Middle East desk in the Russian Foreign Ministry, and representatives of Russian intelligence, Ha’aretz said. They were hosted by National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen, who will soon serve as head of Mossad, Israel’s national intelligence agency.

A senior Israeli official, Ha’aretz continued, said Cohen stressed the importance to Israel of maintaining the freedom to thwart terror attacks from across the Syrian border as well as preventing advanced weaponry from getting into the hands of Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Lavrentiev also visited Baghdad, Amman, Cairo, and Abu Dhabi to discuss the issue.

By: United with Israel Staff