MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday for talks focusing on the situation in Syria and Israeli concerns about the role of Iran and its proxies there.
Greeting Netanyahu at the start of their Kremlin negotiations, Putin emphasized a high level of trust between them. Netanyahu's visit to Moscow follows his talks last month with U.S. President Donald Trump.
Netanyahu praised Russia's role in fighting the Islamic State group and other radical militants in Syria. At the same time, he raised strong concern about the presence of Iranian and Hezbollah forces in Syria.
"Of course, in the past year, there was significant progress in the fight against the radical Sunni Islamic terrorism led by Daesh and al-Qaida," Netanyahu said, using the Arabic acronym Daesh to refer to the Islamic State group. "Russia has made a very important contribution. Naturally, we do not want this terrorism to be replaced by the radical Shiite Islamic terrorism led by Iran."
Russia has sided with Iran and Hezbollah in helping support Syrian President Bashar Assad, but at the same time it has maintained warm ties with Israel. The two nations have coordinated their actions to prevent any possible incidents between their militaries in Syria.
"The threat of radical Shiite Islam threatens us no less than it does the region and the peace of the world, and I know that we are partners in the desire to prevent any kind of victory by radical Islam of any sort," Netanyahu said.
In a statement released by his office at end the end of the talks, Netanyahu was quoted as saying that he "made it clear" to Putin that Israel is opposed to any agreement on Syria that would leave "Iran and its proxies with a military presence in Syria."
Before the talks, Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied media reports that Moscow has given Israel a green light to strike Hezbollah.
"It has nothing to do with reality," Peskov said in a conference call with reporters. "It hasn't been discussed, and there is no talk about it."
Josef Federman and Ian Deitch in Jerusalem contributed to this report.