PM Netanyahu heads to Moscow to tell Putin: Israel will not tolerate Iranian military presence in Syria
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to fly to Moscow Wednesday morning for two days and meet Wednesday evening with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin.
This will be the third meeting between the two leaders in the last six months, and it will take place in the shadow of Assad’s retaking control of southern Syria and the withdrawal of rebels from that area, as well as Israel’s efforts to keep the Iranians from gaining strength in Syria.
Ahead of Wednesday’s meeting with Putin, Netanyahu met Tuesday with Putin’s special envoy on Syria Alexander Lavrentiev and with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin.
In a statement, the Prime Minister’s Office said that Netanyahu will make it clear that “Israel will not tolerate a military presence by Iran or its proxies anywhere in Syria and that Syria must strictly abide by the 1974 Separation of Forces Agreement.”
This statement contradicts various leaks over the past two months that new arrangements had supposedly been made in southern Syria that would keep the Iranians away from Israel’s northern border.
Foreign diplomats informed of the details of discussions between Israel and Moscow say that Israel has agreed not to disrupt the Assad regime’s retaking of control on Israel’s northern border and not to assist the rebels except for humanitarian aid, in exchange for keeping Iranian troops and Shi’ite militias away from the border and maintaining room to maneuver against any increase in their strength in Syria.
Netanyahu told the cabinet at the weekly meeting on Sunday that in his meeting with Putin, he would “reiterate the two basic principles of Israel’s policy: First, we will not tolerate the establishment of a military presence by Iran and its proxies anywhere in Syria — not close to the border and not far away from it. Second, we will demand that Syria, and the Syrian military, strictly uphold the 1974 Separation of Forces Agreement.”
Netanyahu added: “It is self-evident that I am in regular contact with the American administration. These links with the two great powers are very important to the security of Israel at all times and especially at present.”
Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said Tuesday that Israel will not stand the presence of even one Syrian soldier in the buffer zone on the Israel-Syria border, and will hold the Assad regime responsible for any terror infrastructure in the Syrian Golan Heights.
“This attempt to establish terror infrastructure in the Syrian Golan Heights under the regime’s purview is unacceptable to us,” Liberman said.