Israel hopes to reach “specific understandings” with Russia to prevent Tehran from permanently setting up a base of operations in Syria against Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the cabinet on Sunday.
At the opening of the weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu announced that he will be traveling to Moscow on Thursday for a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the discussions will focus on current efforts to put together new arrangements in Syria. Those efforts have taken place in recent weeks in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, and Geneva.
“With the framework of these arrangements, and also without them, there is an Iranian effort to become firmly established on a permanent basis in Syria, either through the presence of ground forces, or naval forces,” Netanyahu said. He also said the Syrians are involved in a “gradual attempt to open up a front against us on the Golan Heights.”
The prime minister said that he will express Israel’s fierce opposition to this in his discussions with Putin.
“I hope that we can reach specific understandings in order to decrease possible friction between our forces and theirs, as we did successfully until now,” Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu traveled to Moscow in September 2015, just as Russia began its military engagement in Syria, and set up a deconfliction mechanism between the two countries aimed at preventing any accidental engagement between Israeli and Russian forces in Syria.
The prime minister discussed the situation in Syria, and how he defines Israel’s interests there, with US President Donald Trump when he met with him in Washington last month. Diplomatic sources said he now wants to have a similar conversation with Putin.