March 17, 2018

Russian Foreign Minister: Moscow never promised to withdraw Iranian troops in Syria

14 November 2017, 09:00 | Taylor George

Russian Foreign Minister: Moscow never promised to withdraw Iranian troops in Syria

GPO  Channel 2 News

A U.S. national security delegation arrived in Israel on Tuesday for high-level meetings with Israeli counterparts to discuss the Syria ceasefire deal that Washington has struck with Moscow, despite reservations from the Israeli side on not going far enough in tackling Iran's presence in southern Syria. While a joint American-Russian statement announcing the deal called for "the reduction and ultimate elimination of foreign forces and foreign fighters from the [border region]", Jerusalem fears that such will only apply to radical Sunni rebels battling regime forces, as, in principle, Assad does not consider Iranian-backed troops as "foreign" given their role in effectively saving the Syrian leader.

Israeli Minister for Regional Cooperation Tzachi Hanegbi said Sunday that the agreement "does not answer Israel's unequivocal demands that there will be no developments that bring Iranian or Hezbollah forces closer to Israel's border with Syria in the north".

Army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Eisenkot reportedly flew to Brussels in secret on Thursday to meet with Gen. Curtiss Scaparrotti, head of the USA army's European Command, and discuss Iranian moves in Syria.

"I have also informed our friends, firstly in Washington and also our friends in Moscow, that Israel will act in Syria, including in southern Syria, according to our understanding and according to our security needs".

In recent months Israel has held talks with Moscow, Washington and Amman in an attempt to ensure that the agreement will define the buffer zone some 40 kilometers from the borders of the Jewish State.

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For this, the secret meeting was interpreted as an Israeli concern from the trio-agreement among Russia, UK and Jordan on cease-fire in south Syria.

"While the United States [with Russia] has made the South-West de-escalation zone a priority in its Syria policy, it has no realistic means of actually rolling back Iranian influence across the border", said Mr Schneider.

On Tuesday, Lavrov said Iran maintained a "legitimate" presence in Syria, according to the Interfax news agency.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has publicly criticized the US-Russian ceasefire deal, saying that it does not include any provisions to stop Iranian expansion in the area and that the IDF will continue carrying out strikes in Syria despite the ceasefire agreement.

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