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The Latest: Kremlin: Putin-Netanyahu call focused on Syria

May 31, 2018

BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on the developments in the Syrian war (all times local):

7:20 p.m.

The Kremlin says President Vladimir Putin has had a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss the situation in Syria.

The Kremlin said the conversation focused on “some aspects of the Syrian settlement,” which it didn’t specify, following up on the two leaders’ talks in Moscow earlier this month.

The phone call came as Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman was visiting Moscow Thursday for talks on the situation along Syria’s border with Israel.

The Syrian government’s plans to recapture rebel-held areas near the border raised Israeli concerns that its backers — Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah — could take up positions along the frontier. Netanyahu has warned that his government would not allow Iran to maintain a permanent military presence anywhere inside Syria.

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5:25 p.m.

A Syrian war monitor says Iranian troops and fighters of Lebanon’s Hezbollah group are getting ready to withdraw from southern Syria.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Thursday Iranian advisers and Hezbollah fighters will be withdrawing from the southern regions of Daraa and Quneitra near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

A Syria-based official with the Iran-led axis of resistance denied the report saying it is “untrue.” The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, gave no further details.

Russian news outlets had recently reported that moscow wants to cut a deal that would see Russian military police deployed to areas near Israel. The agreement would envisage the pullout of all Iranian forces from the area and require Syrian rebels to surrender heavy weapons.

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1:10 p.m.

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman is visiting Moscow for talks focusing on Syria.

Lieberman’s Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoigu, said on Thursday the two need to discuss the situation in southwestern Syria, along its border with Israel.

The Syrian government’s plans to recapture rebel-held parts of the region have raised Israeli concerns that its backers — Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah — could take up positions along the frontier.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned his government would not allow Iran to maintain a military presence anywhere inside Syria.

Russian news reports said Moscow wants to cut a deal that would see Russian military police deployed to areas near Israel. The agreement would envisage the pullout of all Iranian forces from the area and require Syrian rebels to surrender heavy weapons.

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10:40 a.m.

Syrian President Bashar Assad is threatening to attack a region held by U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters in northeastern Syria if talks fail to bring the area back under Damascus’ authority.

Assad said in an interview with Russia Today television which aired on Thursday that the U.S. troops, who operate air bases and outposts in the Kurdish-administered region, will have to leave country.

He says he has opened the door to negotiations with the Kurdish-run administration while also preparing to “liberate by force.”

Forces loyal to Assad, who is backed by Russia and Iran, and the Syrian Kurds have clashed sporadically over the eastern oil province of Deir el-Zour. They led rival fronts against Islamic State militants last year, and they maintain a protracted front against each other along the Euphrates River.

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