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Syria tops the agenda for Netanyahu-Putin meeting

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Israel’s Prime Minister will meet with the Russian President in Sochi today for extensive talks about regional security.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to set out Israel’s concerns over the recent ceasefire signed by the US, Russia and Jordan, which Israel’s security establishment fears will lead to greater Iranian and Hezbollah influence in Syria.

Former deputy director general of Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs Sima Shine told Army Radio this morning that Iran has brought thousands of additional Shia militiamen into Syria capable of establishing a military infrastructure and creating an additional front against Israel from Syria.

Yesterday Netanyahu said he intended to discuss “Iran’s expedited attempt to establish a military presence in Syria” with President Vladimir Putin, adding that Iranian aggression “has not diminished in the slightest since the nuclear agreement”.

Netanyahu is also expected to discuss the transfer of Russian and Iranian advanced weapons to Hezbollah and the mechanisms established in 2015 to prevent aerial clashes during Russian operations in Syria.

Haaretz has reported that Netanyahu will inform Putin that Israel believes Syria should remain as one unified state inhabited only by Syrian citizens once the war ends, and that any agreement between Russia and the US should reflect this.

Mossad chief Yossi Cohen, new national security adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat and Likud Minister and Russian speaker Zeev Elkin, will also attend today’s meeting.

Today’s meeting follows last week’s visit to Washington by a senior delegation of Israeli intelligence chiefs to discuss similar concerns and, according to Israeli media reports, share intelligence regarding the deployment of Iranian forces in Syria.

This will be the sixth time Netanyahu and Putin have met since September 2015.