Russia and Israel share the goal of removing all foreign troops from Syria, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday at the weekly cabinet meeting.Netanyahu, discussing his meeting in Moscow last week with Russian President Vladimir Putin, said that Iran was the focus of the talks, and that he and Putin agreed on the need to remove all foreign forces that arrived in Syria after the start of the civil war there in 2011.
Diplomatic sources said last week that this would exclude Russia, which had a military presence in Syria even before the beginning of the civil war.“I made it unequivocally clear that Israel will not allow Iranian military entrenchment in Syria, and I made it unequivocally clear that we will continue to militarily act against it,” Netanyahu said.Netanyahu said that he and Putin agreed to establish a joint team – along with other actors – to promote the goal of removing foreign forces.Putin addressed this idea at a press conference on Thursday.“The idea is to create a working body that would manage the final normalization [in Syria] after the last hotbeds of terrorism are subdued, involving all the stakeholders – primarily Syria, the leadership of the Syrian Arab Republic, maybe the opposition, other countries in the region, all parties involved in this conflict,” he said. “Among other things, it would certainly cover the withdrawal of all armed forces from Syrian territory and the full restoration of Syrian statehood with its territorial integrity intact. We have long talked about this, and it is fully consistent with the Russian position.”Netanyahu also noted that Putin immediately accepted his invitation to attend the inauguration of a memorial in Jerusalem commemorating the victims of the siege of Leningrad during World War II. Diplomatic sources say that the respect and acknowledgment Israel gives Russia for the Red Army’s role in the victory over the Nazis has had a significant impact on Putin and helped strengthen bilateral relations. These memorials come as countries elsewhere – especially states that made up the former Soviet Union and its bloc such as Poland, Hungary and the Baltic nations – have removed monuments to the Red Army’s victories during World War II.Putin, in his press conference, said that he is “certainly grateful” for Israel’s initiative to create a memorial to the victims of the siege of Leningrad.Netanyahu also addressed Britain’s decision last week to declare all components of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, and called upon the rest of Europe – and other countries in the world – to follow Britain’s lead.“This is an important decision because Hezbollah is a terrorist organization in its own right, and it is also the main terrorist arm of Iran,” Netanyahu said.Netanyahu also related to the most recent antisemitic incident in France: the toppling in Strasbourg on Saturday of a memorial to a synagogue destroyed by the Nazis. Calling the attack “shocking,” Netanyahu called upon leaders of “the enlightened countries” to join in the systematic and continuous denunciation of antisemitism, saying the “first way to fight antisemitism is to denounce and condemn it.”This attack came just two weeks after 100 Jewish tombstones were desecrated in Strasbourg.Netanyahu welcomed the fact that additional countries, including France, are adopting a definition of antisemitism that includes anti-Zionism as one of its manifestations. “Anti-Zionism is the latest and most recent expression of antisemitism,” he said.Netanyahu spoke by phone on Sunday with British Prime Minister Theresa May, and thanked her for the British government’s decision to classify Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. Likewise, he also expressed his appreciation for Britain’s steadfast stance against antisemitism.
Netanyahu: Russia shares goal of removing all foreign troops from Syria, February 3, 2019 (GPO)