Vladimir Putin. Picture: AFP PHOTO/ALEXEI NIKOLSKY
Vladimir Putin. Picture: AFP PHOTO/ALEXEI NIKOLSKY

Moscow — Russian President Vladimir Putin stepped up efforts to broker a deal on the pullback of pro-Iranian militias from Syria’s border with Israel.

Putin met Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior Iranian foreign policy adviser, outside Moscow on Thursday, a day after talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Kremlin.

Russia has agreed to US and Israeli demands that the Iranian-backed forces be kept away from Israel’s border.

"On the eve of the summit between Putin and Trump it seems like Russia’s mediation efforts are bearing fruit," said Elena Suponina, a Middle East expert in Moscow.

Netanyahu told Putin that Israel’s top concern is the Iranian presence in neighboring Syria. He said Israel doesn’t object to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s continued hold on power, Haaretz newspaper reported, citing a media briefing by Netanyahu in Moscow.

Trump also has shifted away from his predecessor Barack Obama’s policy of demanding the Syrian leader’s ouster, a position the US formulated before Russia intervened militarily to turn the tide of the civil war in Assad’s favor with Iran’s help.

Still, there are major questions about Putin’s ability to enforce any agreement involving Iran’s actions in Syria, even if he offers to deploy troops to police the border areas in question.