Israel and Russia in secret Syria deal

Israel and Russia have reached a secret agreement to keep Iranian forces away from Israel’s border with Syria.

According to media reports Israel has agreed that Syrian regime soldiers can return to positions in southern Syria near the border with Israel in exchange for Russian guarantees that no Iranian or Hezbollah forces will take up positions in the area. Israel will, however, retain the freedom to act against military targets that are perceived as a threat.

Israeli Channel 2 news quoted an Israeli diplomatic source, who called the agreement a breakthrough and said “Israel has to ensure its own security”.

Israel’s Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman and his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu agreed the terms during a phone call on Friday night. They are also due to meet in Moscow tomorrow.

Yesterday Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that only Syrian government troops should have a presence on Syria’s southern border. He also called on all foreign troops to leave Syria, including Iran and Hezbollah, but clarified that any understanding “should be a two-way street,” referring to US and Turkish troops.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would not tolerate “any Iranian military presence anywhere in Syria”.

In 2017 the US reached an agreement with Russia and Jordan that Iran would stay at least five kilometres from Israel’s borders, which the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) have ignored.

Last week, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Bahram Qasemi insisted there would be no Irainian withdrawal from Syria. “No one can force Iran to do anything,” he said.

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