Saturday, August 19, 2017

Netanyahu To Discuss Middle East With Putin, Concerned That Iran Is Establishing Permanent Foothold In Syria

Israel's Netanyahu to discuss Middle East with Putin: statement

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will discuss the Middle East with Russian President Vladimir Putin when they meet in the Russian resort of Sochi next week, his office said on Saturday. 
Israel is concerned Iran is trying to establish a permanent military foothold in Syria. Netanyahu said in a speech last week that Israel was watching developments and would act against any threat. 
Iran, Israel's arch-enemy, has been Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's staunchest backer and has provided militia fighters to help him. 
Russia, also Assad's ally, is seen as holding the balance of power in achieving a deal on Syria's future. 
Israeli leaders have pointed to Tehran's steadily increasing influence in the region during the six-year-old Syrian conflict, whether via its own Revolutionary Guard forces or Shi'ite Muslim proxies, especially Hezbollah. 
Netanyahu has said that Israel has carried out dozens of strikes to prevent weapons-smuggling to the Iranian-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah via Syria. 
Two years ago, Israel and Russia agreed to coordinate military actions over Syria in order to avoid accidentally trading fire.

“The two set the meeting to discuss the latest developments in the region,” it said, adding that “it must be noted that in the last two years Prime Minister Netanyahu has met with President Putin every few months to discuss bilateral and regional issues with the intention of preventing any clashes between Israeli and Russian air forces in Syria, with success until now.”

While Israel has rarely acknowledged carrying out its own airstrikes in Syria, a number of attacks against weapons transfers have been attributed to Jerusalem.

Despite the coordination between the two countries, reported Israeli airstrikes in Syria on weapons convoys have led to tensions between Jerusalem and Moscow.

In April, Moscow summoned Israel’s ambassador to Russia, Gary Koren, to protest a reported Israeli strike that nearly hit Russian troops stationed in the area. Syria’s ambassador to the UN later said that Russia had changed its policy and no longer grants Israel freedom of action over Syrian skies.

Netanyahu subsequently denied reports Moscow had told Israel to end airstrikes in Syria, vowing that the IDF would continue attacking weapons convoys.

Netanyahu is also expected to discuss an cease-fire in Syria brokered by Washington and Moscow. Israel has opposed the deal saying it does not properly address Israel’s concerns about Iranian ambitions in the region.
Iran is said to be trying to forge a land corridor from Iran through Iraq and Syria, to Lebanon, where its ally Hezbollah operates.

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