Russia is doubling-down on its demand that non-Syrian forces step back from the border with Israel.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov addressed the situation in Syria on Tuesday at the international Primakov Readings Forum, an international think-tank annual summit held in Moscow. TASS Russian news agency reported his statements.
“We have well-known agreements concerning the southwestern de-escalation zone,” he said. “Those agreements were concluded by Russia, the United States, and Jordan.”
Lavrov was referring to a multinational agreement from July 2017, which established a de-escalation zone in the three southernmost provinces: Daraa, Quneitra, and Suwayda.
“Israel was perfectly aware of them while they were still being drafted,” Lavrov said. “They stipulate that the zone of de-escalation is expected to consolidate stability and that all non-Syrian forces must be pulled out of that area. I believe this must happen as soon as possible. This is precisely what we are busy with now in cooperation with our Jordanian and US counterparts.”
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman is flying to Russia on Wednesday with the intention of finalizing an agreement that would allow Syrian forces to operate in southern Syria against rebel troops. Iranian troops will not be permitted to participate in any offensive and would be required to stay 15 miles back from the border with Israel. Israel would agree not to intrude on any Syrian offensive.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made his position clear regarding an Iranian presence in Syria in a tweet on Monday.
Regarding Syria our position is clear: We believe that there is no room for any Iranian military presence anywhere in Syria. And this reflects not only our position; I can say with certainty that it also reflects the positions of others in the Middle East and outside it.
— PM of Israel (@IsraeliPM) May 28, 2018