January 29, 2018 / 10:20 AM / 9 months ago

Netanyahu flies to Moscow for talks on Syria with Putin

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew to Moscow on Monday to discuss Israeli concerns about any expansion of Iran’s military foothold in Syria with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem January 28, 2018. REUTERS/Tsafrir Abayov/Pool

“I will discuss with President Putin Iran’s relentless efforts to establish a military presence in Syria, which we strongly oppose and are also taking action against,” said Netanyahu, without elaborating, before boarding a plane for the visit, scheduled to last several hours.

Israel’s air force said last year it had struck suspected arms shipments to Iran’s ally, the Lebanese Hezbollah group, around 100 times.

Netanyahu said he and Putin “meet periodically in order to ensure the military coordination between the Israel Defense Forces and the Russian forces in Syria”.

Russia intervened in the civil war on behalf of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in 2015. Iranian forces, Hezbollah and other Shi’ite Muslim militias also back Assad.

Israel fears Iran could be left with a permanent garrison in Syria, extending a threat posed from neighbouring Lebanon by Hezbollah, which has an extensive missile arsenal and last fought a war with the Israeli military in 2006.

Netanyahu said he also planned to discuss with Putin “Iran’s effort to turn Lebanon into one giant missile site, a site for precision missiles against the State of Israel, which we will not tolerate”.

Reporting by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Janet Lawrence

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