Netanyahu claims broad international agreement on need for Iran to leave Syria
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Netanyahu claims broad international agreement on need for Iran to leave Syria

PM tells cabinet his trip to Europe was successful in raising alarm over Tehran’s regional aggression, says ‘getting Iran out is a lengthy process’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on June 10, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on June 10, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that his trip to Europe last week had been largely successful in drumming up a consensus against Iran gaining a military foothold in Syria.

Netanyahu had traveled to Germany, France, and the UK where he held talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Emmanuel Macron, and Prime Minister Theresa May, respectively.

“I concentrated on the Iranian aggression in our region, on the latest developments in our region and — first and foremost — on Iran’s efforts to establish a military presence in Syria,” Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem. “The leaders agreed with the main goal that I set, and that is formulating a broad international agreement that Iran needs to leave Syria, all of Syria. This was the goal of the trip and it was, to a large extent, achieved.”

He noted that “getting Iran out of Syria is a lengthy process.”

The premier added: “I made it clear that we will take strong action against attempts to establish a presence against us, and also against attacks on us. I think that this is understood and accepted by these leaders.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (right) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu address a press conference after a meeting at the Chancellery in Berlin on June 4, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Tobias SCHWARZ)

Iran and Russia are both providing military assistance to embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad in his efforts to end a civil war now in its eighth year.

However, Israel fears Iran is attempting to use the opportunity to gain a foothold in Syria to launch attacks against the Jewish state. Israel has recently carried out a number of airstrikes against Iranian military assets in Syria.

On May 10, Israel unleashed a heavy bombardment against what it said were Iranian military installations in Syria after an Iranian rocket barrage targeting the Golan. It was the most serious military confrontation between the two bitter enemies to date.

Several unconfirmed reports in Israel have claimed Moscow was informed of airstrikes on Syrian and Iranian positions as tensions have risen in recent weeks.

French President Emmanuel Macron, right, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands during a joint press conference after their meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, on June 5, 2018. (PHILIPPE WOJAZER/AFP)

In an interview published Sunday, Assad denied Russia coordinated or even knew in advance about the reported Israeli strikes and downplayed Moscow’s role in determining Iran’s presence there.

“Russia never coordinated with anyone against Syria, either politically or militarily, and that’s [a] contradiction; how could they help the Syrian Army advancing and at the same time work with our enemies in order to destroy our army,” Assad told the British Daily Mail newspaper.

Several unconfirmed reports in Israel have claimed Moscow was informed of airstrikes on Syrian and Iranian positions as tensions have risen in recent weeks.

Netanyahu has also talked, in person and by phone, with Russian President Vladimir Putin to impress on him Israel’s security concerns — and resolve — regarding Iran’s presence in Syria.

British Prime Minister Theresa May, left, greets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside 10 Downing Street in London on June 6, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Ben STANSALL)

Last month Defense Avigdor Liberman held talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu during a visit to Moscow where he declared Israel’s appreciation of “Russia’s understanding of our security needs — especially on our northern border.”

“The State of Israel appreciates Russia’s understanding of our security needs — especially on our northern border,” Liberman told Shoigu. “It is important to continue the dialogue between us and to keep an open line between the IDF and Russian army.”

On Sunday the IDF launched an exercise in the Golan Heights, which included calling up reservists. The military stressed that the exercise was not tied to current events but was “planned in advance as part of the 2018 training schedule.”

The strategic plateau, which Israel gained control of in the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed, incorporates most of the boundary between Israel and Syria.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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