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July 6, 2017 4:34 pm

Israel Reportedly Pushing for Establishment of Demilitarized Zone in Southern Syria

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Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a September 2015 meeting in Moscow. Photo:

Syria was the main agenda item during a telephone conversation between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday, media reports said.

According to the Kremlin, the call was initiated by Netanyahu. The two leaders “continued their exchange of opinions on topical issues of Russia-Israel cooperation,” a Kremlin statement said. “In the context of joint efforts against international terrorism, they discussed the Middle East settlement and the situation in Syria.”

The London Times reported on Thursday that Israel was urging Russia and the US to create a demilitarized zone in southern Syria where Hezbollah and other Iran-backed groups would not be permitted to operate.

Netanyahu has flown to Moscow multiple times for meetings with Putin since Russia’s military intervention in Syria began nearly two years ago. Israel and Russia set up a coordination mechanism to avoid unintended military confrontations in the region.

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On Friday, Putin will meet with US President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany.

Netanyahu has declared on numerous occasions that any international diplomatic arrangement to end the war that has raged in Syria for more than six years now should preclude the establishment of a permanent Iranian military presence in the country.

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