Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that Israel will intervene in Syria to curb Iranian influence in the conflict.
The two leaders met in Sochi on Wednesday, where Netanyahu told Putin that any peace deal in Syria must entail the full withdrawal of any Iranian forces from the area.
Iran has been supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad in the civil war that has been gripping the country for six years but Netanyahu said Tel Aviv felt threatened by Iran’s growing influence in Syria and other parts of the Middle East.
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“Iran is already well on its way to controlling Iraq, Yemen and to a large extent is already in practice in control of Lebanon… We cannot forget for a single minute that Iran threatens every day to annihilate Israel.” Netanyahu said adding that “Israel opposes Iran’s continued entrenchment in Syria. We will be sure to defend ourselves with all means against this and any threat.”
Press TV reports:
The visiting PM, who was hoping for a sympathetic response from Putin, was left disappointed as the Russian head of state refused to address his claims.
But later in the day, Russian Ambassador to the UN Vasily Nebenzya dismissed the Israeli prime minister’s claims.
“We know Israel’s position on Iran, but we believe that Iran plays a very constructive role in Syria,” the Russian envoy stated.
We have been working closely with Iran to bring an end to the conflict in Syria as soon as possible, Nebenzya added.
Russia and Iran have helped the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad score major victories in the years-long fight against foreign-backed terror groups in the conflict-ridden Arab country.
Moscow has been running an aerial campaign against terror positions across Syria since 2015.
It has also separately pushed through with a plan alongside Iran and Turkey to set up four de-escalation zones throughout Syria, where airstrikes would be halted.
The three countries have been mediating talks between the Syrian government and opposition in the Kazakh capital of Astana since January.
Israel is critical of the efforts, fearing that they would ultimately cement Iran’s position as a powerful regional player and benefit Islamic resistance movements such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah, which is also involved in the anti-terror campaign.
That probably explains why the Israeli military has been carrying out airstrikes and shelling attacks against both Syrian government forces and Hezbollah fighters, while providing shelter and medical assistance to terrorists on the Syrian border.