Israeli President Reuven Rivlin wants Russia to provide guarantees that the withdrawal of its air and naval forces from Syria will not result in Iran or the Lebanon-based Shiite Hezbollah militant group gaining power in the war-torn country, a source in Israel’s delegation to Moscow told RIA Novosti on Wednesday.
The Israeli leader is scheduled to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin later in the day as part of his official visit to Russia for talks on humanitarian and economic cooperation.
“Rivlin will ask the Russian side [for] assurance[s] that the withdrawal of its troops from Syria will not be accompanied by a strengthening of Iran and Hezbollah there,” the source said.
On Monday, Putin ordered the withdrawal of the main part of the country’s air and naval forces in Syria as they were deemed to have fulfilled the tasks assigned to them. Putin said the remaining groupings at the Hmeimim air facility in Syria’s Latakia province and the naval facility in the port of Tartus would play a key role in monitoring the cessation of hostilities between Syrian government and rebel forces.
The Israeli president previously called Iran and the Shiite movement, who have been fighting alongside the Syrian government against Sunni radicals and other terrorist groups since 2011, the main cause of the Middle East’s instability.
Syria has been mired in civil war since 2011, with government forces fighting numerous opposition factions and radical Islamists. Russia had been conducting an aerial campaign against terrorists in Syria since September 30 at Assad’s request.