Netanyahu Tells Putin Israel Would Object to Any Permanent Iranian Presence in Syria

Before flying back from Moscow, the prime minister said he told Russia's leader in their talks in Moscow that Iran's efforts to establish a naval base on Syria's shores would have 'serious implications' for Israeli security; 'I think the message was internalized.'

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) speaks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their meeting in Moscow on March 9, 2017.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) speaks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their meeting in Moscow on March 9, 2017. Pavel Golovkin/AP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday he had stressed in his talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin that Israel would object to any settlement that left Iran or any of its satellites permanently in Syria, for a deal to end the country's civil war.

"I made this clear and I think the message was internalized," Netanyahu told reporters in a telephone briefing before his plane took off from Moscow back to Israel. 

He added that he wanted to clarify for Putin Israel's position regarding any political settlement in Syria.

"It was important for me that even if a settlement took time, that Israel's position will remain clear," Netanyahu said. "I stressed our strong opposition to Iran or its satellites establishing themselves in Syria. We see that Iran is trying to establish a naval base in Syria.

"This has serious implications for Israeli security. I told Putin this would threaten stability and hurt the possibility of achieving a political settlement in Syria," Netanyahu said.

At the start of his meeting with Putin, Netanyahu said that Israel does not want the radical Sunni terrorism of Al-Qaida and the Islamic State group in Syria to replace the radical Shi'ite terrorism led by Iran.

After Putin wished Netanyahu a happy Purim, the prime minister responded by saying that in ancient Persia there was an attempt to destroy the Jewish people, but it failed, and that why holiday is celebrated to this day.

"Today there is an attempt and the continuation of Persia, Iran, to destroy the Jewish state. They say it in the clearest terms possible, they engrave it into their ballistic missiles," Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu said Wednesday that Iran is the main threat facing Israel, and because of this threat “shared interests are emerging” between Israel and many countries in the region, which could in turn help advance the peace process with the Palestinians.

“The force we have to contend with is mainly this: Iran and its offshoots, more and more Hamas, supplying arms, development of weaponry and general aggression in the region and beyond,” he said.