Israeli PM says he won't take action against the Assad govt
The Wednesday meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Syria issues may influence the upcoming summit between Putin and his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump, analysts said.
The meeting in the Kremlin was the ninth between Putin and Netanyahu since the Russian military started its military operations in Syria in September 2015, and the third in the last six months.
"Our focus is on the developments in Syria, the presence of Iran. ... Several hours ago, an unmanned aerial vehicle entered the territory of Israel from Syria and was successfully brought down. I would like to emphasize that we will counter any and all attempts to violate our air or land borders," Netanyahu told Putin, according to Kremlin.
"We know about your concerns, let's have a thorough talk about them," Putin told Netanyahu before reporters were asked to leave the venue.
Russian Sputnik news agency reported on Thursday that Israel may offer to lobby the Trump administration to remove U.S. sanctions on Russia in exchange for the latter applying pressure on Iran's withdrawal from Syria.
Russian media suggested that the upcoming Monday meeting in Helsinki could bring a deal between Putin and Trump that would envisage the deployment of Syrian government forces along the frontier with the Israeli-held side of the Golan Heights and the withdrawal of Iranian forces and their proxy Hezbollah militia from the area.
Netanyahu also told Putin that he did not have intentions to help overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government, Sputnik reported.
Israel columnist Herb Keinon said Putin's meeting with Netanyahu indicates that Moscow remains a very significant player in international events and it can't be ignored.
The meeting is Putin's way of reminding Washington that he and Netanyahu are on close terms, that regional issues are being discussed between them, and that Moscow cannot be left out of any broader regional plan that the U.S. might unveil, said Keinon.
Last week, pre-empting a series of high-level meetings, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov emphasized that expecting a withdrawal of Iranian assistance to Syria would be "absolutely unrealistic", given that Teheran is also a key power in the Middle East region.
Regional powers should instead discuss mutual issues and negotiate a compromise, he said.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said in an interview with Italian newspaper Il Giornale published on Wednesday that Moscow hopes that Israel and Iran will both display caution and avoid a showdown.
"Their use of military force in Syria would inevitably lead to an escalation of tensions across the entire Middle East region," he said. "In that context, we rely on peaceful diplomatic means to resolve any differences and expect both sides to show restraint."