by Ilan Evyatar/TPS
Iran’s growing presence in Syria constitutes a threat not just to Israel, but to the entire world, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told Russian President Vladimir Putin as the two leaders met in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Wednesday.
“Iran makes huge efforts to cement its presence in Syria. This poses a threat to Israel, the Middle East, and the whole world,” Netanyahu said.
The prime minister added that while joint efforts to fight and defeat the Islamic State were important, “wherever ISIS disappeared, Iran has taken over.”
“Iran is already on its way to taking control of Iraq, Yemen, and in many ways has already taken over Lebanon,” he continued.
“We cannot forget for a minute that Iran continues to threaten on a daily basis to destroy the State of Israel, that it provides arms to terrorist organizations, encourages and initiates terror, and that it is developing inter-ballistic missiles with the aim of arming them with nuclear warheads. We will defend ourselves with all available means against this threat,” Netanyahu said.
Ahead of the visit, Aleksander Shein, Russia’s ambassador to Israel, said that Moscow “always takes into consideration” Israel’s security needs when acting in Syria, and said it would be advantageous to Israel if incumbent Syrian President Bashar al-Assad were to remain in power there after the fighting ends.
“Russia always takes Israel’s security interests into account when conducting anti-terror operations in Syria and tries to bring peace,” Shein told the Israel Broadcast Corporation (Kan). “The Israeli government supports Russia’s efforts in Syria, as well as Russia’s attempts to stabilize the situation around the region, to bring about an end to the fighting and bloodshed in Syria in order to turn that country into a stable, democratic country.”
Shein also said that Russia would ensure that no foreign military powers remain in Syria once the civil war there is over. “At this stage, we must support peace, the current government and the fight against terror,” he said.