Netanyahu to discuss Iran's 'aggression' with Putin

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has criticised what he calls "fake news" in the Israeli media implicating him in alleged corruption cases (AFP Photo/Dan Balilty) (POOL/AFP)

Jerusalem (AFP) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he will discuss with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday what he calls Iran's "aggression" and attempts to expand its military presence in neighbouring Syria.

Iran is Israel's arch-enemy, and Netanyahu along with Israeli security officials have repeatedly expressed concern over what they see as the country moving to expand its presence in the Middle East.

Netanyahu will meet Putin at the Black Sea resort city of Sochi on Wednesday. Both Russia and Iran back Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime in the war.

"I will raise the problem of Iran trying to establish a military presence in Syria," Netanyahu said in a statement on Tuesday.

"This proves that Iran's aggression has not diminished since the nuclear agreement, which has become a problem not only for Israel, but for all the countries of the Middle East and the entire world."

The head of Israeli spy agency Mossad, Yossi Cohen, and Netanyahu's newly named head of his national security council, Meir Ben-Shabbat, will join him on the trip.

Netanyahu opposes a southwest Syria ceasefire recently agreed by Russia and the United States because he believes it would enable Iran to solidify its presence in the country, an Israeli official has said.

An Israeli intelligence official said in April his country fears an "Iranian crescent" may be forming in the Middle East because of Tehran's influence in Syria and its connections with regional Shiite groups.

Beyond concerns over Iran, Netanyahu's talks with Putin are also likely to involve coordination in Syria.

Russia and Israel have established a "hotline" to avoid accidental clashes in the country.

Israel has sought to avoid being dragged into the six-year Syrian conflict, but has acknowledged carrying out strikes to stop advanced weapons deliveries to Hezbollah, the Lebanese group with which it fought a devastating war in 2006.

Hezbollah also backs Assad's regime in the Syrian war.