Israel rebuffed on Monday a new Russian offer to keep Iranian forces in Syria away from the Golan Heights ceasefire line, an Israeli official said, complicating Moscow’s bid to stabilize the country as the civil war there wanes.
The latest disagreement arose in a meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a senior Russian delegation dispatched to Jerusalem as Syrian government forces routed rebels near the Golan.
Israel’s vigilance was underscored by the launch of its latest, US-backed missile shield against rockets that it said were fired from within Syria but which fell short of the Golan lines.
In Monday’s meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Netanyahu turned down a Russian offer to keep Iranian forces 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the border, according to an Israeli official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The official said that Netanyahu told Lavrov: “We will not allow the Iranians to establish themselves even 100 kilometers from the border.”
Israel had previously rejected a Russian proposal that Iranian forces be kept 80 kilometers from the frontier, according to Israeli officials.
Russian officials had no immediate word on the meeting between Netanyahu and Lavrov and armed forces chief, General Valery Gerasimov.
Netanyahu held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on July 11 amid Israeli concern that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, an old adversary, might defy a 1974 demilitarization deal on the Golan or allow his Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah allies to deploy there.
Russia has said that it wants to see the separation of forces on the frontier preserved. Lavrov’s deputy, Grigory Karasin, told Russian media the foreign minister’s trip was “urgent and important.”
Before the meeting, Netanyahu said he would tell the envoys that “Israel insists on the separation of forces agreement between us and Syria being honored, as they were honored for decades until the civil war in Syria broke out”.
He also reaffirmed “Israel will continue to act against any attempt by Iran and its proxies to entrench militarily in Syria.”
Reuters and Algemeiner Staff