Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday said Iran wielded growing influence in Syria that was a “threat” to his country as he met Russian President Vladimir Putin, a figure in the Syrian crisis.
“Iran is putting in great efforts to fortify its presence in Syria. This is a threat for Israel, for the Middle East and, I believe, for the whole world,” Netanyahu said in remarks translated into Russian posted on the Kremlin’s website.
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“Iran has furthered its control and influence on Iraq, on Yemen. In practice, it in many ways has real control over Lebanon,” he said as the two met in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi.
“Where we overcome ISIS and it disappears, Iran comes in,” Putin said. “We cannot forget for a minute that Iran continues to threaten to destroy Israel on a daily basis,” Netanyahu said, accusing Tehran of “arming terrorist organizations.”
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Putin supports the regime of Bashar al-Assad, which is also strongly backed by Iran. Since Syria’s civil war erupted in 2011, Israel has maintained a policy of attacking arms convoys intended for its Lebanese arch-foe Hezbollah, which backs the Syrian regime and fought a devastating war against the Jewish state in 2006.
Netanyahu had also opposed a ceasefire agreed by Russia and the US in southwest Syria last month over Iranian presence there. Israel seized 1,200 square kilometers of the Golan Heights from Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed it in a move never recognized by the international community. Around 510 sq. km. remain under Syrian control.