to Netanyahu: Syria Can’t Open a New Front Against You
By Barbara Opall-Rome
TEL AVIV — In an attempt to assuage Israeli concerns
about Moscow’s military buildup in Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin on
Monday told visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the Syrian
Army is in no position to threaten the Jewish state.
“We know that the Syrian Army is in a situation where
it is unable to open a new front. Our main purpose is to defend the Syrian
state,” Putin told Netanyahu prior to heading into extensive talks on
implications of the Russian buildup at Israel’s north.
According to a transcript released by Netanyahu’s
office, Putin said he understood the Israeli leader's concerns and was “very
happy you came to discuss every issue in detail.”
In his opening remarks, Netanyahu — accompanied by the
Israel Defense Forces
(IDF) chief of staff and head of Israeli military
intelligence — expressed concern that Iran and Syria are arming Lebanese-based
Hezbollah with the purpose of opening a new front against Israel from the Syrian
side of the Golan Heights.
He reiterated Israel’s policy of responding to attacks
emanating from Syrian soil and preventing transfers of advanced weapons from
reaching the hands of Lebanese Shiite forces fighting alongside Iran in support
of the Moscow-backed Assad regime.
“As you know, in recent years, and especially in the
past months, Iran and Syria are arming an extreme Islamic terror organization,
Hezbollah, with advanced weaponry,” Netanyahu said.
Hezbollah, Netanyahu noted, “has already fired upon us
over the years thousands of missiles and rockets against our cities.”
As for Iran, an increasingly close ally of Moscow that
trains, funds and equips Hezbollah as a forward front against Israel, Netanyahu
said the Islamic Republic, “under the protection of the Syrian Army, is trying
to build a second terror front against us in the Golan.”
“Our policy is to thwart transfers of these weapons
and to prevent creation of a terror front against us from the Golan
territory,” he said.
Putin, according to the Israeli readout of opening remarks, condemned shelling and mortar attacks on Israel from Syrian soil, which he said were carried out by “home networks.
The Russian leader told his guest, “Every action of
Russia in the region has always been very responsible.”
He highlighted the many emigrants from the former Soviet
Union now living in Israel as having “special significance” on the bilateral