Netanyahu to Meet Putin in Russia, Discuss Israel's Concerns Over Southern Syria Cease-fire

Leaders will meet Wednesday at Sochi on the Black Sea. Later this week Mossad chief will head a delegation to Washington for White House talks on Syria

Russian President Vladimir Putin with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a meeting in Moscow, Russia, March 9, 2017
POOL/REUTERS

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet on Wednesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, on the shore of the Black Sea. The Prime Minister's Office said the two will discuss recent developments in the region. One of the main issues that is expected to be raised at the meeting is Israel's concerns over the cease-fire agreement in southern Syria and over an Iranian foothold in the country.

Later this week, a delegation of Israeli defense officials will visit for talks with senior White House and American defense officials. Haaretz has learned that the delegation will be headed by Mossad chief Yossi Cohen, and he will be joined by the head of the Israel Defense Forces Military Intelligence, Maj. Gen. Herzl Halevi, as well as the head of the Defense Ministry's political-security department, Zohar Palti.

A senior White House official said that the Israeli delegation will meet with U.S. President Donald Trump's National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Power, Trump's special Mideast envoy, Jason Greenblatt, as well as other officials.

The White House official said that it was Greenblatt and Trump's senior adviser, Jared Kushner, who orchestrated the meeting.

"Talks will focus on Israel's security needs vis-a-vis Syria and Lebanon, and will not deal with the Israeli-Palestinian peace process," the White House official said. "The delegation's arrival in Washington is a powerful sign of the trust between Israel and McMaster.

One of the main issues that the Israeli delegation is expected to discuss in the talks is the cease-fire agreement in southern Syria and its ramifications. Israel is dissatisfied with the fact that its security interests were not reflected in the draft cease-fire agreement being formulated by the United States and Russia. A senior Israeli official said the delegation was expected to try to persuade senior administration officials that parts of the cease-fire agreement in southern Syria should be amended to include clearer statements about the need to remove Iranian forces, Hezbollah and Shi'ite militias out of Syria.