Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is set to visit Moscow on Thursday, said that he plans on demanding from Russian President Vladimir Putin that any agreement reached to end the Syrian civil war would ensure Iranian military forces withdraw from the country.
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Speaking at Sunday morning's cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said that "There's an attempt on behalf of Iran, as part of an agreement or without it, to base itself permanently in Syria – either through ground military presence or naval military presence – and also through a gradual attempt to open a front with us on the Golan Heights."
"I will express to President Putin Israel's sharp opposition to this possibility, and I hope that we'll be able to reach certain understandings to lessen the possible friction between our forces and their forces, as we've successfully done so far," Netanyahu said.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov told the Al-Hayat daily on Sunday that the withdrawal of Iranian forces from Syria would play only a part in reaching a final agreement in Syria.
"The lawful authorities that will be lawfully chosen in Syria would be the ones with the right to demand the withdrawal of all foreign powers from the country," he said.
Three days before Netanyahu’s visit to Moscow, opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) will be arriving in the Russian capital at the invitation of the chairman of the Russian parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee.
Herzog landed in Moscow late Sunday night and during his 36-hour visit he will meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Bogdanov, and representatives of the Jewish community. Herzog said Monday that his trip to Moscow has nothing to do with Netanyahu’s.
“Russia is a very influential country in the world and in our region and I intend during my meetings to present a firm demand to prevent weapons supplied to Syria being transferred to Hezbollah and against [the group’s] attempt to broaden its sphere of influence to the Syrian Golan Heights, which constitutes a red line for the State of Israel,” said Herzog. “In addition, I will focus on the Palestinian issue, the regional issue and social benefits for immigrants from Russia.”