Amid concerns over whether Syria's civil war will result in Iran having increased its power in the Middle East, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Thursday there could never be peace in Syria as long as there was an Iranian presence there."We discussed at length the matter of Iran, its objectives and intentions in Syria, and I clarified that there cannot be a peace deal in Syria when Iran is there and declares its intention to destroy Israel," Netanyahu said in footage supplied by his office after their meeting.
"[Iran] is arming itself and its forces against Israel including from Syria territory and is, in fact, gaining a foothold to continue the fight against Israel," he said in reply to a reporter's question. "There cannot be peace when they continue the war and therefore they have to be removed."
Netanyahu has said that Israel has carried out dozens of strikes to prevent weapons smuggling to the Iranian-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah via Syria. Two years ago, Israel and Russia agreed to coordinate military actions over Syria in order to avoid accidentally trading fire.
Iran's heavy involvement in Syria seemingly disturbs Israel as Iran has gained a considerable position in the region. Since the war broke out, Israel has supported Bashar Assad's removal and made warnings about the advancement of Iran and its proxies.
The former U.S. President Barack Obama has been very reluctant to make any step to change the war's fate but started supporting the PKK's Syrian branch under the pretext of waging war against Daesh. When Turkey launched a military operation against Daesh, there was no U.S. support. In addition, while Iran has been strengthening its position in Syria, U.S.-Israeli relations have run aground over the disputes between Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It needs to be noted that While Russia and Israel share similar concerns in the region, Russia's close cooperation with Iran is likely disturbing Israel.
Russia, also Assad's ally, is seen as holding the balance of power in achieving a deal on Syria's future. In Geneva last week, the first U.N.-led Syria peace talks in a year ended without a breakthrough.
Israeli leaders have pointed to Tehran's steadily increasing influence in the region during the six-year-old Syrian conflict, whether via its own Revolutionary Guard forces or Shi'ite Muslim proxies, especially Hezbollah.
Last year, Avi Dichter, the chair of Israel's foreign affairs and defense committee, said Iran had tried several times in the past to move forces into the Syrian Golan Heights, next to territory that Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war. Dichter said those moves were repelled, but gave no details.
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