Netanyahu to Meet European Leaders for Talks on Iran in Syria, Nuke Deal

PM's Europe tour comes after understandings reached with Russia to keep Iranian forces away from Israel's border

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sarah Netanyahu board a plane to Germany, Ben-Gurion International Airport, February 17, 2018.
Amos Ben Gershom / GPO

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will fly to Europe early next week for a series of meetings with European leaders about the Iran nuclear deal and the Islamic Republic's entrenchment in Syria and Lebanon.

Netanyahu is slated to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and apparently also British Prime Minister Theresa May.

The prime minister will discuss the nuclear deal in light of Washington's recent withdrawal from the accord. Talks on the presence of Iranian fighters in Syria come against the backdrop of understandings reached with Russia to keep Iranian forces away from the Israeli border.

>> Putin told Assad to lower risk of war between Israel and Iran in Syria, source says

Netanyahu told the Knesset on Monday that he would present Israel’s positions to his European counterparts “in the clearest possible manner.”

“We’re already experienced,” he said. “There were years when we stood alone against these two threats, but I think the situation has changed for the better. Of course I’ll present the things that are essential for Israel’s security.

“Regarding Syria, our position is clear: We believe there’s no room for any Iranian military presence in any part of Syria. And this obviously isn’t our position alone; I can say with confidence that it also represents the positions of others in the Middle East and also outside it. This will be the main focus of the discussions there.”

>> Iran, Israel and an F-35 over Beirut: The fine line between deterrence and hubris

Netanyahu's tour of Europe will begin next Monday in Berlin. From there, the prime minister and his wife, Sara Netanyahu, will fly to Paris, and then apparently to London. They are expected to return to Israel Thursday evening.

Meanwhile, the Defense Ministry announced on Monday that Avigdor Lieberman will leave on Wednesday for a short visit to Russia. He is scheduled to meet with his counterpart, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shvigo.

At the same time, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that only Syrian government troops should have a presence on the country's southern border.

Russia and the U.S., in coordination with Jordan, forged an agreement last year to reduce friction in southern Syria. The agreement stipulated that the Iranians and other militias would remain about five kilometers from the lines of contact between the Assad regime and the rebels, and around five to 20 kilometers from the Israeli border.