Ne­tanyahu To Meet With Putin Amid Con­cerns Over Iran’s Syria Pres­ence

The Jewish Voice - - ISRAEL - By: Ilan Evy­atar

Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu will hold talks with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin in Sochi on the Black Sea later this week. The meet­ing will be Ne­tanyahu’s fifth visit to the Rus­sian cap­i­tal since Moscow in­ter­vened in the Syr­ian civil war two years ago.

The Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice said in a state­ment that the two will dis­cuss the lat­est de­vel­op­ments in the re­gion as part of on­go­ing reg­u­lar talks held ev­ery few months in or­der to dis­cuss bi­lat­eral and re­gional is­sues and in or­der to pre­vent fric­tion be­tween the Is­raeli and Rus­sian air forces in Syria.

The meet­ing, which has yet to be con­firmed by Rus­sian sources, comes amid re­ports of grow­ing con­cern in Is­rael over the Rus­sian-United States bro­kered cease­fire in southern Syria, and es­pe­cially over Iran’s grow­ing pres­ence in Syria. Jerusalem is par­tic­u­larly con­cerned about Ira­nian at­tempts to gain a foothold on the Golan Heights bor­der.

When the cease­fire was an­nounced July 7, Is­rael stated that it was “ut­terly op­posed” to the deal, which it be­lieves al­lows Iran to gain a foothold in Syria to use as a launch pad for at­tacks against it.

Fol­low­ing the an­nounce­ment of the cease­fire Rus­sian For­eign Min­is­ter Sergei Lavrov said: “I can guar­an­tee that we have done ev­ery­thing and the US side has done ev­ery­thing to en­sure that Is­rael’s se­cu­rity in­ter­ests within this frame­work are fully taken into ac­count. ”Fol­low­ing the an­nounce­ment of the Southern Syria cease­fire in early July, Rus­sian For­eign Min­is­ter Sergei Lavrov said : “I can guar­an­tee that we have done ev­ery­thing and the US side has done ev­ery­thing to en­sure that Is­rael’s se­cu­rity in­ter­ests within this frame­work are fully taken into ac­count.”

Am­non Sella, Pro­fes­sor Emer­i­tus for Soviet and Rus­sian stud­ies at the He­brew Univer­sity in Jerusalem, said ahead of the meet­ing that Is­rael’s main con­cern was pre­vent­ing the “in­flu­ence of Iran com­ing closer and closer to Is­rael’s bor­ders.”

“The closer Iran is com­ing to Is­rael’s bor­ders there will be more at­tempts to send ad­vanced weapons sys­tems to Hezbol­lah… this of course calls for a great deal of co­or­di­na­tion be­tween Is­rael and Rus­sia so that they do not come to clash,” Sela said.

Mos­sad head Yossi Co­hen vis­ited Wash­ing­ton last week to meet with US se­cu­rity of­fi­cials in­clud­ing Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser H.R McMasters in talks that were be­lieved to have fo­cused on se­cu­rity mat­ters of con­cern to Is­rael in Le­banon and Syria.

Prior to leav­ing for Wash­ing­ton, Co­hen is­sued a warn­ing in a brief­ing to gov­ern­ment min­is­ters that Iran is fill­ing the vac­uum left as ISIS’s hold on ter­ri­tory in Syria and Iraq wanes.

Ne­tanyahu fol­lowed up on Co­hen’s brief­ing by warn­ing that Is­rael would not al­low Iran to fill the vac­uum on its bor­ders.

“To­day we re­ceived a re­view from the head of the Mos­sad about the se­cu­rity chal­lenges we face. I will sum­ma­rize it on one sen­tence – ISIS out, Iran in. We are talk­ing mainly about Syria,” Ne­tanyahu said.

“Our pol­icy is clear,” he added. “We strongly op­pose the mil­i­tary buildup of Iran and its prox­ies, first and fore­most Hezbol­lah in Syria, and we will do ev­ery­thing nec­es­sary to main­tain Is­rael’s se­cu­rity.”

Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu will hold talks with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin in Sochi on the Black Sea later this week.

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