Russia and Israel have developed close political, economic and cultural ties that have helped them tackle delicate and divisive issues, such as the situation in Syria where Moscow has teamed up with Tehran to shore up Syrian President Bashar Assad’s rule.

Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed hope on Friday that new Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett would continue in the footsteps of his predecessor in maintaining close and “trusting” relations with his country, AP reports.

After talks at Putin’s lush Black Sea residence in Sochi, Bennett hailed bilateral ties as “strategic” and emphasized the need to maintain an “intimate” dialogue with Moscow.

Greeting the Israeli prime minister at the start of their first meeting, Putin described Russian-Israeli ties as “unique,” noting that Israel is home to the largest Russian-speaking community.

Putin kept close personal ties with former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has repeatedly visited Russia. On Friday, Putin pointed to Russia’s “business-like and trusting relationship” with Netanyahu’s government and expressed hope that Bennett’s government would pursue a “policy of continuity” in Russian-Israeli ties.

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