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Israel PM visits Russia for talks on Iran’s actions in Syria

January 29, 2018

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, attend a meeting marking 75th anniversary of the Sobibor uprising, the only successful uprising that took place in a death camp during World War II at the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow in Moscow, Russia, Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. (Maxim Shemetov/Pool Photo via AP)

MOSCOW (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Russia on Monday for talks focused on Syria, warning that Israel will not accept Iran’s growing military presence there and in neighboring Lebanon.

Before departure for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Netanyahu said that Iran is trying to turn Lebanon into “one giant missile site, a site for precision missiles against the state of Israel, which we will not tolerate.”

The Israeli leader also pointed at what he described as “Iran’s relentless efforts to establish a military presence in Syria, which we strongly oppose and are also taking action against.”

Russia and Iran have joined forces to back President Bashar Assad throughout the Syrian conflict. Russia has waged a military campaign in Syria since September 2015, helping Assad’s forces score a series of victories and win back key ground.

At the same time, Russia has sought to maintain friendly ties with Israel, and the two countries’ militaries have established close communications to avoid collisions in Syria.

Speaking in a video statement after his talks with Putin, Netanyahu hailed what he described as a “good and in-depth” meeting.

“I told him that Israel views with severity two developments,” Netanyahu said. “One, the attempts by Iran to base itself militarily in Syria and the second, Iran’s attempt to produce in Lebanon accurate weapons against the state of Israel. I made it clear to him that we will not agree to any of those developments and we will act accordingly.”

Israel’s chief military spokesman, Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis, posted a rare op-ed on Sunday on several Arabic-language websites, warning Lebanon of Iran’s entrenchment and saying Israel is “prepared for all the scenarios.”

Putin and Netanyahu also jointly visited Moscow’s Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center to see an exhibition about a 1943 uprising at the Nazis’ Sobibor camp in occupied Poland. Netanyahu noted that the uprising was led by a Jewish Red Army officer and praised the heroism of the Red Army in defeating the Nazis.

The Russian president expressed his appreciation, saying that the Israeli attitude contrasts with the removal of monuments to Red Army heroes in some European nations.

Putin noted that Russia and Israel are “cooperating closely in resisting attempts to falsify history and revise the results of WWII, deny Holocaust and downplay a decisive role the Soviet Union played in defeating the Nazis.”

“The main lesson from the rise of the Nazis and later the defeat of the Nazis is the need to stand up powerfully to murderous ideology in time,” Netanyahu said. “That is our mission today as well.”

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Ian Deitch in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

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