Russia Working to Remove Iran From Syria Border, Israeli Sources Say

Moscow's attempt is being carried out as Israel avoids disrupting Assad's recapturing of border area

Noa Landau
Noa Landau
Putin shakes hands with Netanyahu during their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on July 11, 2018.
Putin shakes hands with Netanyahu during their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on July 11, 2018.Credit: AFP
Noa Landau
Noa Landau

MOSCOW - Russia has been working to push Iran away from Israel's border with Syria, diplomatic sources told Haaretz Wednesday evening. While Russia is toiling on this effort, Israel has avoided intervening and disrupting stabilizing efforts by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime as he retakes Syria’s south.

The sources said that while Iranian forces have not completely been ousted from the border area, Moscow is currently acting to carry out the process.

Moscow has a clear interest in seeing the Syrian regime stabilized as well as distancing Iran from Israel’s border, the sources said. This attempt may collude with Israeli interests, but it just as well might work, they added.

>> With six missiles, Netanyahu sends Putin a powerful message | Analysis ■ Israel shoots down drone infiltrating from Syria Trump's perverse appeasement of Putin will rebound on Israel | Opinion <<

This report comes after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin, where he arrived earlier Wednesday for a two-day visit.

The meeting between the two leaders comes hours after Israel shot down a Syrian drone that infiltrated Israeli airspace.

"We intercepted [the drone] and we will continue to act firmly against any infiltration, on land or in the air, and we expect everyone to respect [Israel's] sovereignty and that Syria will observe the separation agreements," Netanyahu told Putin at the beginning of the meeting.

As for Iran's presence in Syria, Netanyahu told the Russian leader that, "Our opinion is that Iran should leave Syria, this is not something new for you."

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Netanyahu said that the meeting with Putin, which precedes by several days the Russian president’s meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump, focuses on several important aspects.

One is “Israel’s freedom of operation, which I think is a continued feat of ours,” the premier said. “We are acting in a very crowded arena and not only are we not opposed to the Russians, we are actually alligned with them.”

Netanyahu stressed that Jerusalem and Moscow were closely cooperating, citing Israel’s downing of the drone from Syria earlier in the day as an action that was coordinated with Russia.

“We are acting against Iranian and Hezbollah targets, and there’s no resistance from the Russian forces,” the prime minister added.

The second aspect higlighted in the meeting, Netanyahu said, “was the question of Syria and Iran ahead of the upcoming summit."

This is the third meeting between the two leaders in the last six months, taking place in as Assad retakes control of southern Syria.

Also headed to a separate meeting with Putin Wednesday is Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior adviser to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

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