Netanyahu Tells Putin: Israel Will Prevent All Attempts to Violate Its Borders

In third meeting within six months, leaders expected to discuss Assad's return to southern Syria and Israeli concerns over Iran

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

UPDATE: Russia working to remove Iran from Syria border as Israel is getting out of Assad's way

MOSCOW - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu landed in Moscow on Wednesday afternoon for a two-day visit, and is meeting with the Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin.

At the beginning of the meeting, the prime minister said that every visit in Moscow "is an opportunity for us to act together and try to stabilize the situation in our region and increase security."

"Our opinion is that Iran should leave Syria, this is not something new for you," the prime minister told the Russian President. "A few hours ago a Syrian aircraft breached Israeli airspace. We intercepted it 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."

The Russian leader told Netanyahu that the economic and military relations between Israel and Russia are developing in a "positive" way.

Video of Israeli missile intercepting a Syrian drone over northern Israel.

This is the third meeting between the two leaders in the last six months, taking place in the shadow of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s retaking control of southern Syria, as well as Israel’s efforts to keep the Iranians from gaining strength in Syria.

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

A short while before Netnayahu landed in Moscow, a reconnaissance drone flying in from Syria infiltrated Israeli territory and was intercepted by the Israeli military after spending 16 minutes in Israeli airspace. 

Sources among Netanyahu's associates said that he was updated in real time on the drone from Syria that infilitrated Israel while aboard the plane en route to Moscow.

Ahead of Wednesday’s meeting with Putin, Netanyahu met Tuesday with Putin’s special envoy on Syria Alexander Lavrentiev and with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin.

In a statement, the Prime Minister’s Office said that Netanyahu will make it clear that  “Israel will not tolerate a military presence by Iran or its proxies anywhere in Syria and that Syria must strictly abide by the 1974 Separation of Forces Agreement.”

>> Syria strike: On eve of Moscow meeting, Netanyahu sends Putin strategic message | Analysis

This statement contradicts various leaks over the past two months that new arrangements had supposedly been made in southern Syria that would keep the Iranians away from Israel’s northern border.

Foreign diplomats informed of the details of discussions between Israel and Moscow say that Israel has agreed not to disrupt the Assad regime’s retaking of control on Israel’s northern border and not to assist the rebels except for humanitarian aid, in exchange for keeping Iranian troops and Shi’ite militias away from the border and maintaining room to maneuver against any increase in their strength in Syria.

Netanyahu told the cabinet at the weekly meeting on Sunday that in his meeting with Putin, he would “reiterate the two basic principles of Israel’s policy: First, we will not tolerate the establishment of a military presence by Iran and its proxies anywhere in Syria — not close to the border and not far away from it. Second, we will demand that Syria, and the Syrian military, strictly uphold the 1974 Separation of Forces Agreement.”

Netanyahu added: “It is self-evident that I am in regular contact with the American administration. These links with the two great powers are very important to the security of Israel at all times and especially at present.”

Another bombardment Sunday on an Iranian installation at the Syrian T4 air force base near Homs was attributed to Israel.