Mar 6, 2017
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is set to visit Moscow on Thursday (9 March), said that he would talk to the Russian President Vladimir Putin about Iran’s desire to establish permanent foothold in Syria.
Speaking to his cabinet on Sunday (5 March), PM Netanyahu said that he hopes to reach “specific understandings” with Russia to end the Syrian civil war and ensure that Iranian military forces withdraw from the country.
“In the framework of a (future peace agreement) or without one, Iran is attempting to base itself permanently in Syria – either through a military presence on the ground or a naval presence – and also through a gradual attempt to open a front against us on the Golan Heights,” Netanyahu said.
“I will express to President Putin Israel’s vigorous opposition to this possibility.
“I hope that we’ll be able to reach certain understandings to lessen the possible friction between our forces and their forces, as we’ve successfully done so far,” he added, referring to the Russian military.
Iran, which is Israel’s arch-enemy and Syria’s ally, has always helped Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government and provided military support to help him.
Russia, also Assad’s ally, is seen as a key player in achieving a deal on Syria’s future, Reuters reported.
According to reports, the Israeli prime minister fears that Tehran and its Shi’ite Muslim proxies, especially Hezbollah would try to use Syria as a base to attack Israel.
But, majority-Shi’ite Iran has always maintained that its forces were in Syria to defend holy Shi’ite shrines.
Netanyahu’s comments come amid opposition leader Isaac Herzog of Zionist Union’s visit to Russia. Herzog is in Moscow at the invitation of the chairman of the Russian parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee.
Herzog cleared on Monday that his trip to Moscow has nothing to do with Netanyahu’s visit to the country.
“Russia is a very influential country in the world and in our region and I intend during my meetings to present a firm demand to prevent weapons supplied to Syria being transferred to Hezbollah and against [the group’s] attempt to broaden its sphere of influence to the Syrian Golan Heights, which constitutes a red line for the State of Israel.
“In addition, I will focus on the Palestinian issue, the regional issue and social benefits for immigrants from Russia,” Herzog added, according to Haaretz.