Monday, July 23, 2018

Israel Rejects Russian Offer To Keep Iran 100 km From Syrian Border

Israel rejects Russian offer to keep Iran 100 km from Syrian border

Israel has rejected a Russian proposal to keep Iranian forces in Syria 100 kilometers (62 miles) away from Israel’s northern border, a senior Israeli official said Monday, moments after a meeting between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu concluded in Jerusalem.
Israel is sticking to its demand that Iran not be allowed any military foothold in Syria, the official stressed. Israel is furthermore demanding that all long-range missiles be removed from the war-torn country and that any factories producing precision-guided missiles there be shut, the official said.

Additionally, Jerusalem has asked Moscow to guarantee that all air-defense systems that protect the aforementioned arms be taken out of Syria. Lastly, Israel requested the closing of border crossings between Syria and Lebanon and between Syria and Iraq, to prevent Iranian weapons being smuggled into Syria.

“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 senior official told Israeli reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Besides Netanyahu and Lavrov, also present at the two-hour meeting were Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, and IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, as well as the head of Russia’s army, Valery Gerasimov, and other senior officials.
“The link between us is extraordinarily important and it exists, as you have seen, in the direct meetings between myself and President [Vladimir] Putin and between our staffs,” Netanyahu said at the beginning of the meeting.
He added that he “appreciated” comments made by Putin and US President Donald Trump at their summit in Helsinki last week, during which both leaders vowed to take Israel’s security concerns into consideration as they discussed the future of Syria.
Russia is “committed” to create a security belt of about 100 km from Israel’s northern border, the senior Israeli official said Monday evening, stressing that Jerusalem was happy for that to happen as a first step, though it will continue to be act to prevent an Iranian entrenchment anywhere else in Syria.
As long as Iranian forces possess the capability to fire long-range missiles at Israeli targets, even if they are stationed outside Russia’s proposed buffer zone, the Israeli Air Force will not stop acting to protect Israeli citizens, the senior official said.

The Russian “aspiration” of creating a 100-kilometer zone in which neither Iranian forces nor Tehran’s proxy militias are present is insufficient for Israel, the senior official went on. “Iran wants to turn Syria into a second Lebanon. And we’re determined to prevent that.”

Asked how the Russian officials reacted to the Israeli demands, the senior official said, “They listened very carefully. They know our demands, but today they received a great deal of detailed information.”
The official added that Israel had disclosed to the Russians some hitherto unknown intelligence.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke by phone Friday with Russian President Vladimir Putin as Israel continues to press its demands that there be no Iranian military presence in Syria.
The call came Friday with an evacuation effort underway to transfer rebel fighters and civilians from a southwestern sliver of Syria near the Golan Heights to opposition territory further north.
The transfers come under a surrender deal agreed this week between Russia and Syrian rebels in Quneitra province that will see the sensitive zone on the Israeli border fall back under regime control.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu noted that Israel would continue to act against the establishment of an Iranian military presence in Syria,” his office said in a statement on the call.
The Kremlin said Putin and Netanyahu discussed regional developments “with an emphasis on the Syrian settlement process.”
Netanyahu has spoken and met with Putin regularly in recent years about Syria and military coordination between the two countries there, most recently during his visit to Moscow last week. Along with Iran, Russian forces are backing the regime of President Bashar Assad in the country’s civil war.

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