During Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s surprise visit to Russia last week, Assad relayed a message to Israel via Moscow that Damascus would be willing to implement a 25-mile buffer zone along the Jewish state’s border with Syria, the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida reported Sunday.
The condition for the buffer zone’s implementation, the outlet reported, is that Israel must not seek Assad’s removal from power.
Assad also purportedly stated that he would be willing to explore establishing autonomy for Syria’s Kurds and Druze as part of an agreement that would maintain the current Syrian administration.
According to the report, Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered the Syrian offer to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a phone call. Netanyahu reportedly stated that he would be willing to discuss the deal with Israel’s security establishment, but that Israel still seeks the complete ouster of Iran and the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah from Syria.
The US, Russia and Jordan recently reached a cease-fire agreement in southern Syria that aims to establish a “de-escalation zone” near Israel’s border where Iran and Hezbollah would not be allowed to operate. But Netanyahu said regarding the cease-fire that he “clarified to our friends in Washington and our friends in Moscow that we will operate in Syria, including southern Syria, in accordance with our understanding and in accordance with our security needs.”
Netanyahu has intensively lobbied Russia and the US to create a 37-50 mile secure buffer zone between Israel and Syria. After Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu’s visit to Israel in October, Moscow reportedly agreed to establish a 6-9 mile buffer zone near the Israeli border, exceeding Russia’s initial promise of a 3-mile buffer.