Netanyahu Hails ‘Successful’ Europe Trip, Says Achieved Goal With Regards to Iran

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s hand and notes are seen during the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s office in Yerushalayim, Sunday. (Jim Hollander/Pool via Reuters)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said at the beginning of the weekly cabinet meeting Sunday that European leaders agreed to the goal he set forth ‘to form broad international agreement that Iran should leave Syria.’

“Last week,” he said, “I visited Europe and I spoke with three main leaders there: Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May.

“I concentrated on the Iranian aggression in our region, on the latest developments in our region and – first and foremost – on Iran’s efforts to establish a military presence in Syria. The leaders agreed with the main goal that I set, and this is formulating a broad international agreement that Iran needs to leave Syria, from all of Syria. This was the goal of the trip and it was, to a large extent, achieved. Even though Iran’s departure from Syria is a long process, I believe that if you set a goal, if you know where you are going, you have a greater chance of getting there.

“In any case,” summarized Netanyahu, “I made it clear that we will take strong action against attempts to establish a presence against us, and also against attacks on us. I think that this is understood and accepted by these leaders.”

Netanyahu has long warned that he will not allow Iran to establish itself militarily in Syria, arguing that such a scenario is a threat to Israel’s security.

On Wednesday, a senior diplomatic official told Israeli media that France, Britain and Germany reached a “general agreement” regarding the removal of Iranian forces from Syria.

Reports of European consensus regarding Iran’s presence in Syria came after Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman met his Russian counterpart Sergey Shoygu in Moscow to discuss the matter, followed quickly by a phone call between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

On the issue of the Iran nuclear deal, meanwhile, Netanyahu encountered opposition to his tough stance in European capitals.

Netanyahu met Wednesday in Paris with French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, who is pushing to maintain European trade with Iran allowed under the 2015 deal curbing Iranian nuclear activities. The recent U.S. withdrawal from the accord threatens that trade and has raised fears of war between Israel and Iran.

Earlier, Netanyahu met with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who both reiterated their support for the accord.

Netanyahu said last week that he had not asked France to leave the 2015 Iran nuclear deal because he believed the accord would not survive after the United States pulled out of the deal and re-imposed sanctions on Tehran.

“I didn’t ask France to withdraw from the JCPOA (Iran deal) because I think it is basically going to be dissolved by the weight of economic forces,” Netanyahu told a joint news conference with Macron.