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Netanyahu, Putin talk Iran before Helsinki summit

In his last meeting with Putin before the Helsinki summit with Trump, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sought to enlist Russia's support for Israel's Syria proposal for the United States.
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia July 11, 2018. Yuri Kadobnov/Pool via REUTERS - UP1EE7B1DI9W0

On July 11, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made his third visit to Russia this year to meet with President Vladimir Putin. The talks were dominated by the Syrian issue and the possibility of an Iranian departure from the Arab republic in exchange for Israel not interfering in the military operation in the south of Syria led by government forces. Although the topics on the agenda weren't new, what made Netanyahu’s visit more important this time around was that it occurred just days before the US-Russia summit set for July 16 in Helsinki. Washington is allegedly seeking to raise the issue of Iran's presence in Syria and has Israel’s full support for this move.

In the run-up to the Netanyahu visit, Russia outlined two topics for his talks with Putin: a Middle East settlement and the situation in Syria. The former, however, ended up being more of a backgrounder. Moscow had earlier invited the Israeli prime minister to attend the final game of the FIFA World Cup on July 15, where Netanyahu could have found himself in the stadium together with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Yet Netanyahu, who is reluctant to meet with Abbas, opted for an earlier visit, while the Palestinian leader will come for the final as originally planned. Israel could have ignored the Russian invitation altogether, especially given the fact that Putin and Netanyahu saw each other only two months ago, on May 9. But the situation on the ground in Syria demanded a personal encounter.

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