Putin-Netanyahu meeting focuses on Iran's role in Syria

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu warns Russian President Vladimir Putin over Iranian influence in war-torn Syria.

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Thursday that there could never be peace in Syria as long as there was an Iranian presence there.

    "We discussed at length the matter of Iran, its objectives and intentions in Syria, and I clarified that there cannot be a peace deal in Syria when Iran is there and declares its intention to destroy Israel," said Netanyahu, shortly after his meeting at the Kremlin. 

    Iran, Israel's arch-enemy, has been one of embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's staunchest backers in the six-year-long civil war and has provided militia fighters to bolster his weakened army.

    "[Iran] is arming itself and its forces against Israel, including from Syrian territory, and is, in fact, gaining a foothold to continue the fight against Israel," he said in reply to a reporter's question.

    "There cannot be peace when they continue the war and therefore they have to be removed."

    READ MORE: Why thousands of Iranians are fighting in Syria

    Russia, another key Assad ally, is seen as holding the balance of power in achieving a deal on Syria's future.

    At UN-led talks in Geneva last week, Russian pressure helped UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura get the two warring sides to agree to a framework for the next round of talks. 

    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 Shia Muslim armed groups, especially Hezbollah.

    Israel has carried out dozens of strikes against the Iranian-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah in Syria.

    Two years ago, Israel and Russia agreed to coordinate military actions over Syria in order to avoid accidentally trading fire.

    Putin was set to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan later on Friday for talks that were also expected to focus on Syria. 

    SOURCE: News agencies


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