Netanyahu to meet with Putin in Moscow next week
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Netanyahu to meet with Putin in Moscow next week

Prime minister to head to Russian capital for talks with president for second time in a month

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin, May 9, 2018. (Amos Ben Gerschom/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin, May 9, 2018. (Amos Ben Gerschom/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will travel to Moscow next week for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, where he is expected to discuss Israel’s demands for an end to Iran’s military presence in Syria.

Netanyahu will leave Israel on Wednesday at midday and return the early following day, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement Thursday. It will be their second meeting within a month after they last held talks on June 15.

Israel has expressed concerns that Iran is attempting to gain a foothold in southern Syria as a base to attack the Jewish state. It has launched a diplomatic drive for Iran to pull its forces and supported militias out of Syria. Iran, along with Russia, has been providing military support to the Syrian regime in its efforts to end a civil war which began in 2011.

Netanyahu has spoken and met with Putin regularly in recent years regarding Syria.

The upcoming visit comes as the US, Russia, Jordan, and Israel try to agree on the future of southern Syria, where regime forces recently began an offensive to quash rebel strongholds in Daraa province.

The area lies close the borders with Israel and Syria.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Wednesday that it would be “absolutely unrealistic” to expect Iran to completely withdraw from Syria.

Speaking after a meeting with his Jordanian counterpart in Moscow, Lavrov said a proposed ceasefire deal in the southern region brokered by Russia, Jordan and the US envisioned the withdrawal of non-Syrian forces and the deployment of Syrian troops along the border with Israel.

But Lavrov said Iran is one of the key powers in the region, and that it could not be expected to abandon its interests in the country. He said regional powers should discuss mutual complaints and negotiate a compromise.

Israel has repeatedly said it will not tolerate an Iranian military presence in Syria, and has recently acknowledged carrying out airstrikes on Iranian targets in the country. Israel has also struck Syrian air defense systems that fired at Israeli fighter jets during the raids.

Lavrov said Putin and US President Donald Trump would discuss the situation in southern Syria at their upcoming summit on July 16.

Last week the Arabic-language Al-Hayat newspaper reported that Trump would make a full Iranian pullout from Syria territory a priority at that meeting.

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