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Netanyahu Wants Putin to Curb Iran in Syria | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a meeting in Sochi, Russia August 23, 2017. Sputnik/Alexei Nikolsky/Kremlin via REUTERS

Moscow – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned on Wednesday against Iran’s activity in Syria. He stated that Iran’s presence is a threat to Israel, the Middle East, and the world as a whole.

“The victory over ISIS is welcome. Iran’s entry is unwelcome, endangering us, and in my opinion, endangering the region and the world,” Netanyahu added.

Addressing Russian President Vladimir Putin during the three-hour meeting between the two leaders in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Netanyahu said that Israel was willing to act to prevent a continued Iranian military presence in Syria.

Israeli PM told Russian President that any peace deal in Syria must entail the full withdrawal of any Iranian forces from the area. He added that Iran is entering the areas where ISIS has been defeated, stating that Tehran’s threats to destroy Israel can’t be ignored and it is arming terrorist organizations and promoting terrorism.

“Israel opposes Iran’s continued entrenchment in Syria. We will be sure to defend ourselves with all means against this and any threat,” Netanyahu declared.

This is Netanyahu’s second visit to Russia since the beginning of the year. Netanyahu last met with Putin in Moscow in March, but the two have spoken by phone frequently since. But it seems that nothing has changed in Tel Avivi’s stances since then when Netanyahu said: “We don’t want Iran’s terrorism to replace ISIS and Nusra’s terrorism.”

Russia pledged to consider Israel’s security concerns when dealing with the situation in Syria.

Haaretz newspaper reported that a number of Israeli officials held secret meetings with Russian and US officials earlier in July. The officials discussed the de-escalation zones in southwest Syria. Israel reiterated during the talks that agreement must ensure a solution to Iran’s presence in Syria.

Recent developments validate Israel’s concern which prompted Netanyahu to head to Russia and discuss the matter personally with Putin.

In related news, Russian Defense Ministry announced that the Joint Monitoring Center for the southern Syrian de-escalation zone in the provinces of Quneitra and Daraa has started its activities in Amman, Jordan.

“In accordance with the agreements reached by Russia, the United States and Jordan during the Astana talks, on August 23, 2017, the Joint Monitoring Center for the southern Syrian de-escalation zone, set up in the Daraa and Quneitra governorates, will start its activities in Amman,” the statement added.

The Ministry didn’t clarify who will operate the center, but it said in a statement that the center is tasked to control the ceasefire in the region, as well as ensuring humanitarian access to the area and the provision of medical and other assistance to civilians.

Meanwhile, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said that despite all hostility and conflicts, Russia continues to believe there is room for some improvement in Russia – US relations. He reported that dialogue between the two countries is still underway.

Ryabkov declared that the official statements coming from Washington about its willingness to maintain a dialogue with Russia, to seek common ground, and to address bilateral and important international issues sound quite unconvincingly. He did however state that US’ practical actions undermine the statements, which Moscow will keep in mind.

“We hope that the realisation of this simple fact will finally convince Washington to end the sanctions spiral and focus on returning bilateral dialogue and interaction back to normal,” he added.

Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a stern statement defending its support for Syrian regime and attacking the US following statements of US Ambassador to UN Nikki Haley.

Earlier, during a speech on 4th anniversary of the Ghouta chemical weapons attack, Haley called for the prosecution of those involved in the use of toxic agents in Syria.

The ministry stated that UN Mission presided over by Swedish professor Ake Sellstrom did not determine who was responsible for the attack, while still essentially confirming the Russian experts’ conclusions regarding the provocative nature of the use of homemade sarin by extremist groups.

“This is another attempt by Washington to use the incident in Khan Sheikhoun to justify the air strike on April 7, 2017 against the sovereign nation of Syria, in violation of the UN Charter and universally recognized norms of international and humanitarian law,” the ministry concluded.