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File photo: Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) welcomes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia June 7, 2016. REUTERS/Maxim Shipenkov/Pool - RTSGEFC
File photo: Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) welcomes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia June 7, 2016. REUTERS/Maxim Shipenkov/Pool – RTSGEFC

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed the planned US withdrawal from Syria with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday, the Kremlin said.

Both  stressed the need to strengthen military and diplomatic cooperation in Syria during the phone call, which was initiated by Netanyahu, according to Tass reported

“The discussion focused on developments in Syria, including in light of the United States’ plans to withdraw its troops from that country,”  Kremlin said according to TASS quoted the Kremlin as saying

Both  leaders agreed on the need to “defeat terrorism and speedy achievement of a political settlement in Syria.” TASS

“To that end, the parties reaffirmed their mutual determination to strengthen coordination through military and diplomatic channels,” TASS quoted the Kremlin as saying.

Netanyahu’s office later confirmed the call, saying that Netanyahu told Putin that “Israel is determined to continue its efforts to prevent Iran from entrenching itself militarily in Syria.”

Israel  and Russia  have coordinated their military efforts in Syria in recent years to avoid friction and accidental conflict.

Tensions recently reached a peak in September following the downing of a Russian aircraft by Syrian anti-aircraft fire during an Israeli airstrike, an incident Russia blamed on Israel.

Despite the Russian anger over the downed plane, Netanyahu has reiterated several times that Israel will continue to act to prevent Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria and the smuggling of advanced weapons into Lebanon.

The situation in Syria is set to become more fragile after US President Donald Trump announced last month  that he will pull all American ground troops out of the country. The US had been leading the coalition against the Islamic State terror group, while also helping to thwart the establishment of permanent Iranian military infrastructure in Syria.

Trump’s  surprise announcement rattled Israel  where   officials expressed  concern that America’s absence would open the door for Tehran to create a so-called “land bridge” from Iran, through Iraq and Syria, into Lebanon and to the Mediterranean Sea.

This week, Trump also sparked further consternation in Israel when he said that Iran “can do what they want” in Syria, appearing to give Tehran free rein to further entrench itself in the country, though he also said Iran was pulling its forces out of the country.

Agencies

 

 

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