Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has sidestepped questions over whether his country agreed to pay Russia to provide coronavirus vaccines to Syria as a part of a prisoner swap between the two Middle Eastern countries.
Mr. Netanyahu confirmed Saturday night that negotiations with Russia took place as part of efforts to bring back an Israeli woman stuck in Syria. He said he had spoken twice with Russian President Vladimir Putin to hammer out the deal, but denied that Israel provided its own vaccines for it.
“I want to say that not even one Israeli vaccine went for this thing,” said Mr. Netanyahu. “We brought back the woman. I’m happy we did this. I thank President Putin that we did this. And more than this I won’t add because that was the Russian request.”
The deal was first reported by a U.S.-based blogger, Richard Silverstein, and the New York Times , who said that Israel secretly agreed to pay Russia to send vaccines to Syria to secure the return of the Israeli woman.
Israel has described the exchange as a standard prisoner swap. The prime minister didn’t deny buying the Russian vaccines, however, and a person familiar with the deal said that was part of the arrangement.