Netanyahu to press Putin on Iranian influence in Syria
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday he will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin this week in Moscow to press for a limit to Iran's influence in Syria.
Israel is deeply concerned over whether Syria’s civil war will result in its arch-foe Iran having increased its power in the neighbouring country.
Netanyahu, who has held a series of talks with Putin in recent months related to Syria, said he planned to meet the Russian leader on Thursday.
Russia has been conducting an air war in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, and Iran also supports Assad.
“Syria and the effort to formulate an agreement there will be at the centre of our conversation,” Netanyahu said at the start of Sunday’s cabinet meeting.
“In the context of this agreement, or without it, Iran is trying to establish itself permanently in Syria, with a military presence on the ground and at sea, and also a gradual attempt to open a front against us on the Golan Heights,” he said.
“I will express to President Putin Israel’s sharp and vigorous opposition to this possibility.”
Israel seized 1,200 square kilometres (460 square miles) of the Golan from Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community.
Israel opposes Assad, but has sought to avoid being dragged into the Syria’s civil war.
However, it has carried out strikes there to stop arms deliveries to the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, which fights alongside Assad’s forces. Israel fought a war against Hezbollah in 2006.
Last year, Netanyahu and Putin agreed to set up a “hotline” to avoid accidental clashes between their forces, and the Israeli premier said further discussions would be held on the issue this week.
“I hope we will be able to reach certain understandings in order to reduce possible friction between our forces and theirs, as we have successfully done up until now,” he said.