In talks with Putin, Netanyahu to focus on Iran threat
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In talks with Putin, Netanyahu to focus on Iran threat

PM holds security consultation with Mossad head and national security adviser a day ahead of their trip to Sochi

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) during their meeting in Moscow on March 9, 2017. (AFP Photo/Pool/Pavel Golovkin)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) during their meeting in Moscow on March 9, 2017. (AFP Photo/Pool/Pavel Golovkin)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held consultations with his top security officials on Tuesday, a day before he travels with them to Sochi for a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss threats from Iran.

“I will discuss with him Iran’s accelerated attempt to establish a military presence in Syria,” said Netanyahu in a statement.

“This attests, of course, to Iran’s aggression which has not lessened in the wake of the nuclear agreement,” Netanyahu said, adding that “this also presents a problem not only to Israel, but rather to all the nations of the Middle East and the entire world.”

The prime minister will be joined on the trip to the Black Sea resort city by Mossad chief Yossi Cohen and newly appointed National Security Council chief Meir Ben-Shabbat.

Head of Mossad Yossi Cohen speaks at the launch event for Libertad foundation. June 27, 2017. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
Head of Mossad Yossi Cohen speaks at the launch event for Libertad foundation. June 27, 2017. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

The pair will sit in on the meetings with the Russian leader, during which Netanyahu is expected to raise concerns over a ceasefire 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.

The Israeli delegation will also try to secure assurances that after a ceasefire brings the fighting in Syria to an end, Iranian forces will be pulled out of the country and its territory, a Ynet report said.

Iran is said to be trying to forge a land corridor from Iran, through Iraq and Syria, to Lebanon, where its ally Hezbollah operates.

Netanyahu last met with Putin in Moscow in March, but they have spoken by phone frequently since then.

“The two set the meeting to discuss the latest developments in the region,” a Saturday statement from the PMO 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.”

Meir Ben-Shabbat, who was named National Security Adviser on August 13, 2017. (Courtesy)
Meir Ben-Shabbat, who was named National Security Adviser on August 13, 2017. (Courtesy)

Russia entered the Syrian civil war in 2015 in support of the regime of President Bashar Assad, carrying out bombing runs against rebel groups fighting against Damascus.

While Israel has rarely acknowledged carrying out its own airstrikes in Syria, numerous raids on weapons transfers have been attributed to Jerusalem.

Despite the coordination between the two countries, some of the 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.

Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.

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