Israel to Russia: Assad's safe from us, but Iran must quit Syria




  • In World
  • 2018-07-11 20:26:15Z
  • By By Dan Williams and Gleb Stolyarov

By Dan Williams and Gleb Stolyarov

JERUSALEM/MOSCOW (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Russia on Wednesday that its ally Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would be safe from Israel, but Moscow should encourage Iranian forces quit Syria, a senior Israeli official said.

The message, which the official said Netanyahu conveyed in talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, came just hours after Israel shot down what it described a Syrian drone that had penetrated its airspace, underscoring the frontier's volatility.

Israel has been on high alert as Assad's forces advance on rebels in the vicinity of the Golan Heights, much of which Israel captured from Syria in 1967 and annexed in a move not recognized internationally. Israel worries Assad could let his Iranian and Hezbollah reinforcements entrench near Israeli lines or that Syrian forces may defy a 1974 Golan demilitarization.

"They (Russia) have an active interest in seeing a stable Assad regime and we in getting the Iranians out. These can clash or it can align," the Israeli official said.

"We won't take action against the Assad regime," the official quoted Netanyahu as telling Putin in Moscow, and added the Israeli leader came away reassured that "they (Russia) are getting the Iranians out".

Russia was working to distance Iranian forces from the Golan and had proposed that they be kept 80 km (50 miles) away but this fell short of Israel's demand for their full exit along with that of Tehran-sponsored militias, the official said.

A second Israeli official told Reuters that Netanyahu's message did not constitute any "quid pro quo" offer to Russia.

Russian officials had no immediate comment on the meeting.

Since turning the tide of Syria's civil war by intervening militarily in 2015 on Assad's behalf, Russia has turned a blind eye to scores of Israeli air strikes against Iranian and Hezbollah deployments or arms transfers, while making clear it wanted Assad kept immune.

Israel said a Syrian drone, apparently unarmed and designed for surveillance, entered its airspace and was downed with a Patriot missile near the Sea of Galilee on Wednesday. The interception set off sirens on the Golan and nearby Jordanian border.

"We are still looking into why it crossed - whether it was on a military mission and crossed on purpose, or it strayed," said Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesman. He added that the latter scenario was "not common".

Israeli cabinet ministers threatened this week to fire on Syrian forces that enter the Golan buffer zone set up as part of a 1974 U.N.-monitored armistice. The United Nations last month renewed the mandate of its Golan observer force UNDOF and on Wednesday called on all parties to abide by the armistice.

"There should be no military forces in the area of separation other than those of UNDOF," a U.N. spokesman said.

Israel has signaled openness to eventual ties with Assad, a tacit acknowledgement that he is re-consolidating power as he routs Syria's rebels.

Under Assad family rule, Syria held direct negotiations with Israel in the United States in 2000 and indirect talks mediated by Turkey in 2008. Netanyahu's government has made clear it would not now cede the Golan and has been lobbying for U.S. recognition of Israel's claim of sovereignty there.

On June 24, Israel's military said it launched a Patriot missile at an incoming drone from Syria, which turned away unscathed. A Syrian commander said the drone was engaged in local operations. On July 6, Israel struck a Syrian post that it said had shelled the Golan buffer zone.

(Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols in the United Nations; Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Peter Graff)

COMMENTS

More Related News

Turkey says it will launch new Syria offensive within days
Turkey says it will launch new Syria offensive within days

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) - Turkey will launch a new military operation against U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters in Syria "within a few days," President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday, a move likely to further strain ties between NATO allies Turkey and the United States.

Flynn to make arguments against prison time in Russia probe
Flynn to make arguments against prison time in Russia probe

WASHINGTON (AP) - Lawyers for Michael Flynn, President Donald Trump's former national security adviser, are poised to ask a judge to spare him prison time in a sentencing memorandum due by the end of Tuesday.

Lebanon: Israel border tunnel operation won
Lebanon: Israel border tunnel operation won't endanger calm

BEIRUT (AP) - Lebanon's president said Tuesday Israel's operation to destroy what it says is a series of cross-border attack tunnels built by the militant Hezbollah group won't endanger the calm along the frontier, adding that his country takes the issue seriously.

Israel Faces More Formidable Hezbollah Dug in From Lebanon
Israel Faces More Formidable Hezbollah Dug in From Lebanon

The Israeli prime minister told diplomats who'd braved fierce rains that Iran's Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, was waiting for just such a foggy day to send attack squads into his country. "Hezbollah wants to order several battalions into our territory with the aim of isolating communities, cities or kibbutzes

Accused Russian Agent Maria Butina Reaches Plea Deal With Federal Prosecutors: Reports
Accused Russian Agent Maria Butina Reaches Plea Deal With Federal Prosecutors: Reports

Maria Butina, a Russian gun-rights activist accused of working as an agent for

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply

Comments

Top News: World

facebook
Hit "Like"
Don't miss any important news
Thanks, you don't need to show me this anymore.