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Netanyahu to meet Putin about Iran's presence in Syria

By Allen Cone
Netanyahu to meet Putin about Iran's presence in Syria
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presides over the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem on Sunday. He said he will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday in Moscow. Photo by Abir Sultan/pool/EPA

March 5 (UPI) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday he plans to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow this week about Iran's military presence in neighboring Syria after the civil war ends.

Netanyahu, speaking during the opening of his weekly Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, said he wants to travel to Russia on Thursday to "express to President Putin Israel's strong and resolute opposition" for Iran to remain permanently in Syria.

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The Israeli leader said "there's an attempt on behalf of Iran, as part of an agreement or without it, to base itself permanently in Syria -- either through ground military presence or naval military presence -- and also through a gradual attempt to open a front with us on the Golan Heights."

Netanyahu fears Iran and its terrorist proxy Hezbollah will use Syria as a base to attack Israel.

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Netanyahu traveled to Moscow in September 2015, when Russia began its military operation in the Syrian civil war. Russia has worked closely with Iran to help the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

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Last year, Netanyahu visited Russia twice.

Spillover fire from Syria has hit the Golan Heights during the six-year civil war.

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Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov told the Al-Hayat daily on Sunday withdrawing Iranian forces from Syria would play a part in reaching a final agreement in Syria.

"The lawful authorities that will be lawfully chosen in Syria would be the ones with the right to demand the withdrawal of all foreign powers from the country," he said.

Peace talks have occurred in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, and Geneva.

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