By Herb Keinon, JPost

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov chastised Iran on Monday for calling for Israel’s destruction during a panel discussion in Moscow where Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif was sitting with him on the dais.

“We have stated many times that we won’t accept the statements that Israel, as a Zionist state, should be destroyed and wiped off the map. I believe this is an absolutely wrong way to advance one’s own interests,” Lavrov said in Moscow at the Valdai International Discussion Club conference entitled “Russia in the Middle East: Playing on All Fields.”

The two-day conference brought together heads of think-tanks throughout the Middle East, from Libya to Iran, including Dore Gold, head of the Jerusalem Center of Public Affairs, and Amos Yadlin, who heads the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.

Gold, a former director-general of the foreign ministry, was in the audience for Lavrov’s statement, and deemed it – being said in the presence of Zarif – as very significant, “because it is blatant criticism by the foreign minister of Russia of their Iranian ally.”

Asked how Zarif responded, Gold said the Iranian diplomat just smiled, adding that, “he is very good at smiling.”

“By the same token” Lavrov continued, “we oppose attempts to view any regional problem through the prism of fighting Iran.”

According to Lavrov, the US position on issues such as Syria, Yemen, and “even the latest developments around the Palestinian issue – including Washington’s announcement of its decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital – are largely motivated by this anti-Iranian stance.”

Zarif, in his comments, referred to last week’s incident on the northern borderr where the incursion of an Iranian drone led Israel to shoot it down and attack Syrian and Iranian installations inside Syria. An Israeli F16 was shot down during those attacks.

“Israel has violated Syrian sovereignty. So for the first time in 36 years, Syrian defense forces managed to bring down an Israeli plane. Is this a catastrophe? Is this a strategic complication, or is the fact that Israel violated the airspace of a sovereign state a strategic catastrophe?” Zarif asked.

He continued: “Israel has to put a stop to its aggression. Don’t look for excuses, such as drones. We need to stop this aggression, and if anyone takes such an action against another country, it is possible to react.”

On Sunday at the Munich Security Conference, which Zarif also attended, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu displayed a piece of the downed drone and confirmed that Iran has been denying that it sent the unmanned aerial vehicle.

“Well, here’s a piece of that Iranian drone, or what’s left of it after we shot it down,” Netanyahu said. “I brought it here so you can see for yourself. Mr. Zarif, do you recognize this? You should – it’s yours.”