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Netanyahu warns Putin about the rise of Iran

August 23, 2017

Benjamin Netanyahu accuses Iran of filling the void left by the Islamic State in Syria. Israel's prime minister has expressed concern that de-escalation zones brokered by Moscow pose a security threat.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, at a meeting with Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu.
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/Sputnik/S. Guneev

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Iran of posing a threat to his country with its growing influence in Syria, during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Netanyahu warned that Iran was trying to establish a permanent presence in Syria, filling a void left by the so-called "Islamic State." 

"Mr. President, with joint efforts we are defeating Islamic State, and this is a very important thing. But the bad thing is that where the defeated Islamic State group vanishes, Iran is stepping in," he told Putin.

Read more: Syria civil war timeline: A summary of critical events

"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. "We cannot forget for a minute that Iran continues to threaten to destroy Israel on a daily basis."

Bolstering control in Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon

Israeli aircraft strikes targets in Syria

Moscow has maintained close ties with both Israel and Iran despite the animosity between the two. Iran and Russia back the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, while Israel has bombed Iranian supply lines to Lebanon's Hezbollah, which is fighting for the Assad regime.

Netanyahu accused Iran arming terrorist organizations and of bolstering its control and influence in Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon.

Putin did not make any public statements in response to Netanyahu's comments about Iran's role in Syria. However, Russia's ambassador to the United Nations, Vassily Nebenzia, called the de-escalation zones in Syria "real progress on the way to end that tragic war."

"We know the position of Israel towards Iran but we think that Iran in Syria is playing a very constructive role," Nebenzia said.

Read more: And the winner is: Assad

In recent months Russia has brokered de-escalation zones in Syria, which Israel said will allow Iranian troops and Hezbollah forces to deploy in greater strength.

Moscow has reassured Israel that Russia's influence will deter both Iran and Hezbollah from opening a new front against Israel.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said in a statement on Wednesday that it had no plans to conduct military operations outside Iran's borders.

Read more: Iran vows to continue missile program as tensions with US flare

aw/sms (AFP, Reuters, dpa, AP)