MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin told visiting Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday he had agreed to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu soon to discuss the security situation in the Middle East.
The two leaders met in Moscow and an Israeli official, who declined to be named, said Rivlin had “asked that Russia work to restore UNDOF as part of any long-term arrangement in Syria,” referring to a United Nations peacekeeping force.
Personnel from UNDOF, which monitors the Israeli-Syrian frontier on the Golan Heights, have come under fire and even been kidnapped by militants fighting the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, prompting peacekeeping contingents from some participating nations to withdraw from the force.
The official said Rivlin had also reiterated Israel’s position that “it will not allow Iran or Hezbollah guerrillas to entrench on the Golan,” a veiled threat to take action in the Syrian interior to thwart such a scenario.
Rivlin’s remarks may have been aimed at playing on Russia’s concerns of ensuring that Syria maintains control over its territory.
Israel deems Assad ally Hezbollah its most potent enemy, and worries that the Iranian-backed guerrillas, who hold sway in southern Lebanon, are also becoming entrenched on its Syrian front and acquiring advanced weaponry from Damascus.
Though formally neutral on the civil war, Israel has carried out occasional air strikes in Syria to foil suspected Hezbollah arms transfers. An Iranian general and two senior Hezbollah fighters have been killed in Syrian strikes attributed to Israel.
Israeli guns have also fired into Syria across the Golan Heights frontier zone in what they called responses to spillover shelling or deliberate attacks by Iranian-linked militias.
Reporting by Darya Korsunskaya in Moscow and Dan Williams in Jerusalem; Writing by Polina Devitt and Ori Lewis; Editing by Andrew Osborn/Ruth Pitchford