Israeli PM leaves for Russia to meet Putin

Indo Asian News Service

Tel Aviv, March 9 (IANS) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday left for a one-day visit to Russia to meet President Vladimir Putin amidst speculations of an agreement to end the war in Syria.

Netanyahu said he would urge Putin to prevent Iranian presence in Syria, in case such a peace deal is signed, Xinhua news agency reported.

"The Prime Minister will express Israel's strong opposition to the presence of Iranian forces, and those of its proxies, on our northern border and in the Mediterranean Sea in the context of the talks on a settlement of any kind," a statement released by Netanyahu's Office said.

Netanyahu also intends to reiterate to Putin "the fact that the Golan Heights is not part of the discussion on any outline", the statement added.

Israel occupied the Golan Heights in the 1967 Middle East War and later annexed it, in a move not recognised internationally.

Israel said Iran had significantly aided its close ally, Syria, in the seven-year civil war, including by reportedly sending in thousands of troops and lending intelligence assistance.

Israel has been formally neutral in the war but has reportedly carried out several airstrikes in the neighbouring Syria.

In April, Netanyahu acknowledged for the first time that Israel had launched "dozens" of airstrikes in Syria in the past years to prevent the transfer of weapons to the Hezbollah organisation in Lebanon.