Israel will not let Iran use the Hezbollah terror group to turn the Syrian side of the Golan Heights border into a new front, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Russian media outlets in comments published Tuesday.
Netanyahu, who is on a two-day visit to Moscow, told the state-run Interfax news service and TASS news agency ahead of the talks that he would do everything in his power to prevent Iran from gaining a foothold in Syria, and intended to ask Russia for help in curbing the threat from Hezbollah.
“We have a red line, a boundary that we will not allow to be broken. Iran will not be allowed, using Hezbollah, to use Syrian territory to attack us and open up another terrorist front against us in the Golan,” Netanyahu told TASS ahead of a meeting with Putin on Tuesday afternoon — their fourth round of talks in recent months.
The two leaders were expected to continue their ongoing discussion over security coordination between the Russian and the Israeli armies, especially their so-called deconflicting mechanism, installed to assure the Israel Defense Forces does not strike Russian jets operating in Syrian airspace.
“We have made a point of staying out of the Syrian conflict, with two exceptions: treating wounded Syrians on a humanitarian basis and preventing Iran from using Syria to attack Israel or to transfer sophisticated weapons to Hezbollah,” Netanyhau noted. “We don‘t know what will come of Syria, but in any arrangement, it cannot be an Iranian base for terrorism and aggression,” he told Interfax.
“Israel will continue to share its concerns with the Russian government regarding Hezbollah. This terrorist group has called for the murder of every Jew and therefore must be prevented from acquiring advanced weaponry from anyone. Hezbollah launched thousands of missiles at our civilians and we will not allow them to amass even more sophisticated weaponry on our border.”
Netanyahu and Putin were also to mark 25 years of Israeli-Russian diplomatic relations, which were reestablished in January 1992, 25 years after the Soviet Union severed them in the wake of the 1967 Six Day War.
“Russia is an important global power and Israel is an important regional power. President Putin and I understand the value of the ties between our two countries, which have steadily improved over the last quarter of a century. Our relationship has enhanced Russia-Israel cooperation and I expect that this trip will only add to that,” Netanyahu told the Russian media.
“Our coordination mechanism has already proven itself. We would both benefit from strengthening it further.”
During Netanyahu’s visit, Jerusalem and Moscow were also to sign a bilateral pensions agreement, which seeks to “correct a historic injustice regarding emigres from the former USSR up to 1992 who lost their eligibility for a Russian pension,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement Sunday.
The agreement, which will only take effect after Russian authorities ratify it, was to be signed by former immigration and absorption minister Ze’ev Elkin and Russian Labor and Social Protection Minister Maxim Topilin. Payments to Soviet-born Israelis are expected to commence next year.
Tuesday’s meeting in the Kremlin is the fourth contact between the two leaders in less than a year. Netanyahu visited the Russian capital in September 2015 and in April 2016. In addition, the two briefly got together last November on the sidelines of the Paris climate conference. In comparison, in the same time frame, Netanyahu has only met twice with US President Barack Obama.
Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.