Netanyahu to Putin: Iran Needs to Leave Syria
Pictured Above: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on July 11, 2018. Credit: Kobi Gideon/GPO.
(JNS) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Wednesday, just hours after Israel shot down a Syrian drone that had infiltrated Israeli airspace.
“It is clear that our focus is on Syria and Iran. Our view that Iran needs to leave Syria is well-known; it is not new to you,” Netanyahu told Putin.
“Several hours ago, a Syrian UAV penetrated Israel’s airspace. We shot it down, and we will continue to take strong action against any trickle [of fire] and any infiltration into Israel’s airspace or territory,” continued Netanyahu. “We expect that everyone will respect this sovereignty and that Syria will strictly abide by the  Separation of Forces Agreement.”
Before shooting down the Syrian drone earlier on Wednesday, the Israel Defense Forces said it verified that it was not being flown by Russia, which has been supporting the Syrian government in its offensive against rebel forces in southern Syria in recent weeks.
“The cooperation between us is a central component in preventing a conflagration and deterioration of these and other situations,” said Netanyahu.
Putin, who praised Israel and Russia’s relationship, told Netanyahu that “we are aware of your concerns, let us discuss them in detail.”
Following their meeting, Putin invited Netanyahu to attend the semi-final World Cup match between England and Croatia held in Moscow.
This was the third meeting in the last six months between the men.
Israel has repeatedly raised concern with Russia over Iran’s presence in Syria, which the Jewish state fears is seeking to stake out a permanent presence in the country, especially along Syria’s border region with Israel.
The meeting also came as Ali Akbar Velayati, a top aide to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is visiting Moscow at the same time at Netanyahu.
Various reports in recent days have hinted at the possibility of a deal being struck with Russia that would see the withdrawal of Iranian forces and their terror proxy Hezbollah from southern Syria.
According to Ynet, a Israeli diplomatic sources said that “Russia is acting to push Iranian forces from near the Syrian border.”
A report in The New Yorker magazine on Tuesday said that Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Israel have all separately urged Trump to offer Putin to lift U.S. sanctions from its invasion of Crimea in exchange for removing Iranian forces from Syria.
While Russia has reportedly said that it would keep Iranian forces from the Israeli border, it said it is “unrealistic” to expect a full Iranian withdrawal from Syria.
U.S. President Donald Trump and Putin are scheduled to hold a heavily watched meeting next Monday in Helsinki, Finland.