Israel’s PM Netanyahu to leave for Germany & France next week, maybe UK, to impress upon European leaders the importance of blocking Iran’s expansion into the Middle East and their nuclear aspirations.
– Defense Minister Lieberman, accompanied by head of Military Intelligence Directorate to visit Russian counterpart in Moscow on Syrian agreement.
By Itamar Eichner, Shahar Hay and Yoav Zitun
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will leave for a three-day visit to Germany and France starting next Monday, during which he will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron to discuss the Iranian nuclear threat and the Islamic republic’s entrenchment in Syria.
The premier is also said to be mulling continuing across the English Channel from Paris to London, to meet with British Prime Minister Theresa May.
Before he does, however, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman will leave for a working visit to Russia this coming Wednesday. Lieberman was invited by his Russian counterpart Sergey Shoygu after the two conversed this past weekend.
The meeting will take place Thursday, with the defense minister being joined by the head of the Military Intelligence Directorate Maj.-Gen. Tamir Hayman, head of the Defense Ministry’s Political-Military Bureau Zohar Palti and other defense establishment officials.
Prime Minister Netanyahu outlined his upcoming trip at the commencement of his party’s parliamentary group meeting, saying, “Next week I will leave for Europe. I will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, with French President Emmanuel Macron and perhaps with British Prime Minister Theresa May as well.”
“I will discuss with them blocking Iranian nuclear aspirations and Iranian expansion in the Middle East,” the premier expounded. “I will present our positions as clearly as possible. We are already well experienced. For years we stood alone against these twin threats and I think that the situation has changed for the better. Of course I will present these matters as vital to the security of Israel.”
On Syria, Netanyahu said, “We believe that there is no room for any Iranian military presence anywhere in Syria. And of course, this reflects not only our position; I can say with certainty that it also reflects the positions of others in the Middle East and outside it. This will be the main focus of discussions there.”
Earlier Monday, Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov said that only Syrian soldiers should be stationed on the country’s southern frontier, near Israel.
In so doing, the Russian diplomat may have been sending a message to Syrian rebels, still waging war against the Syrian army near the border, or it may have been a rare warning aimed at Hezbollah and Iran, whose presence near the border greatly perturbs Israel.
Prime Minister Netanyahu himself met Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this month, and expressed his concern at Iranian entrenchment in Syria.
“I have no reason to believe Russia will harm our interest,” Netanyahu said after the meeting. “I told Putin it was our right to defend ourselves against Iranian aggression emanating from Syria.”
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