JERUSALEM—Amid growing concerns over Iran’s military presence in Syria, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu headed to Moscow Monday morning for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“I will discuss with President Putin Iran’s relentless efforts to establish a military presence in Syria, which we strongly oppose and are also taking action against,” Netanyahu said shortly before taking off for Moscow.
“We will also discuss Iran’s effort to turn Lebanon into one giant missile site, a site for precision missiles against the State of Israel, which we will not tolerate,” he added.
A statement from the Russian state news agency TASS said the two leaders plan to discuss issues related to boosting Russian-Israeli cooperation in trade, economy, cultural and humanitarian spheres along with pressing international and regional issues, including the Middle East problem and the situation in Syria.”
Netanyahu is accompanied on the trip by National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat Minister Zeev Elkin; the head of Military Intelligence Maj. Gen. Herzl Halevi, and Ze’ev Elkin, a Russian-speaking member of the security cabinet.
The half-day visit is Netanyahu’s sixth to Moscow since the two sides set up a deconfliction mechanism following Russia’s intervention in the Syrian civil war in late 2015. It comes amid growing tensions on Israel’s northern front and amplification of Israel’s rhetoric against Iran’s involvement in Syria and Lebanon.
Officials in Jerusalem have said on numerous occasions that Israel “will not tolerate” an Iranian military build up on its northern and eastern borders and on Sunday IDF spokesman Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis warned Lebanon against increasing Iranian activity in the country and urged its citizens to stand up to Tehran and Hezbollah’s meddling in the country and prevent the outbreak of war.
Israel has also struck military targets in Syria several times in recent months, according to foreign reports. In December, Israel was reported to have hit an Iranian base said to be under construction near Damascus.