Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke about Syria with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a telephonic conversation, a media report said. The talks took place a day after Putin’s meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. According to the Hebrew-language Ynet news site, an Israeli official said that Netanyahu and Putin spoke over the phone on Tuesday night for “about half-an-hour” and discussed Iran’s attempts to gain a foothold in Syria, Xinhua news agency reported. Putin held several talks over the phone with leaders to update them on his Monday meeting with al-Assad, including with US President Donald Trump and King Salman of Saudi Arabia.
The talks came a day after al-Assad held a surprising visit to the Russian city of Sochi to discuss political process in Syria. According to the Kremlin, that joint military operations in Syria are “coming to an end,” with the focus shifting to a political process. Israel has been lobbying Russia and the US against the establishment of permanent Iranian bases in Syria. However, according to local media reports, a ceasefire agreement promoted by the US and Russia does not include a ban on Iranian military presence in Syria. Israel and Syria share a disputed border in the Golan Heights, a territory that Israel seized from Syria in the 1976 Middle East War and annexed it later in a step never recognised by the international community. Israel has been carrying out occasional airstrikes against Syrian army positions, usually in response to errant fire from the six-year war between the Bashar Assad regime and rebel groups.