Netanyahu and Putin have met three times this year, and have now spoken on the phone at least 10 times, a frequency that underlines the degree of coordination between the two countries.
Israel and Russia have an understanding regarding what southwestern Syria will look like after President Bashar Assad retakes complete control over the area bordering Israel, Russia’s ambassador to Israel said in a recent interview.
Anatoly Viktorov, in an interview with Russia’s Rossiya- 24 television channel on Friday, said the high-level Russian delegation that came to Israel and met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a day before he left for Moscow to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 11, “came to an understanding what these territories will look like after the complete expulsion of renegade and terrorist groups.”
The delegation included Alexander Lavrentiev, Putin’s special envoy on Syria, and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin.
“The sides came to the understanding of how it will look like for Israel,” Viktorov said. “There are different reports in the media that some groups will withdraw from this area to a certain number of kilometers. It is quite true. There are specific agreements how it will look like in the future.”
Following his meeting with Putin in Moscow, Netanyahu said the Russians had moved Iranian forces and their Shia proxies dozens of kilometers away from Syria’s border with Israel. Netanyahu has repeatedly said that Israel will not accept an Iranian presence in Syria, but made clear in Moscow that “the immediate priorities were to distance the Iranian forces away from the border, and to remove Iranian longrange missiles from Syria.”
According to an op-ed by Josh Rogin in The Washington Post on Friday, Russia agreed with Israel to keep Iranian troops and proxy groups 80 kilometers from Israel’s border, and that Putin would not object if Israel strikes Iranian military positions in southern Syria, especially if Iran deploys weapons such as strategic missiles or anti-aircraft systems.