While the Syrian army are taking the last steps to completely retake the control of the southern parts of the country, close to the Israeli borders, Tel Aviv has intensified its pressures not to let Iran extend its influence to that area. The Russian proposal with this aim, however, has not been accepted by the Israelis.
Israeli media last night cited unknown diplomatic officials, reporting that Russia is working to move Iranian forces and the pro-Iran groups 100 km. from the Syrian border with Israel (occupied territories). The report comes after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov.
According to the Jerusalem Post, the Israeli official has said Tel Aviv’s goal is to remove Iran from all of Syria, and if Moscow wants to deal in the first phase with the buffer zone, then that is fine, “but that does not satisfy us even in the first phase, because they [Iran] have weapons [in Syria] that go beyond that range.”
In a separate report, Reuters cited a senior Israeli official as saying on condition of anonymity that Israel had rejected a Russian proposal, which would see Iranian military advisors in Syria stationed 100 kilometers away from the occupied territories.
The official said Tel Aviv is sticking to its call for an end to Iran’s counter-terrorism mission in Syria, the removal of all long-range missiles from Syria and the closure of any factories producing precision-guided missiles there.
Furthermore, the official said, the Tel Aviv regime asked Moscow to guarantee that all air-defense systems that protect the aforementioned arms be taken out of the Arab country.
“This was a very important meeting at a significant time, during which we delved into many details, produced maps and shared intelligence, and explained in great detail our policy,” the unnamed official said.
Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that during Monday’s talks, “the parties tackled various aspects of the Middle Eastern agenda, attaching primary significance to the situation in Syria and its vicinity.” The statement however provided no details on any possible Russian offer about Iran’s presence in Syria.
Over the past years, Tehran and Moscow have been assisting the Syrian army in its battles against various terrorist groups – many of which have the backing of Israel and its allies. Russia has repeatedly underlined the need for the involvement of influential external players, including Iran, in efforts to resolve the deadly conflict gripping Syria.
Tehran also says it would maintain its advisory role in Syria and continue its support for resistance groups as long as Damascus wants it to do so.