Israel has held secret talks with Russia and the US in an attempt to reduce the growing Iranian influence in Syria, the Israeli Haaretz newspaper reported citing “Israeli officials and Western diplomats”.
According to the report, a series of secret meetings regarding the cease-fire in southern Syria took place in Jordan and Europe and the sides discussed the creation of safe-zones on the Syrian-Israeli and Syrian-Jordanian borders.
Israel was very concerned over the Iranian influence that may grow as a result of the de-escalation in the war-torn country and was pushing the idea that “Iranian forces” should be removed from Syria.
According to Haaretz. “leading diplomats and security officials from Israel, Russia and the United States took part in the talks. The Israeli team included top representatives of the Foreign Ministry, Defense Ministry, Mossad and the Israel Defense Forces. The American team was led by President Donald Trump’s special envoys on Syria, Michael Ratney and Brett McGurk. The Russian team was headed by President Vladimir Putin’s envoy on Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev.”
Tel Aviv even presented its list of “reservations” about the cease-fire. However, Israel didn’t find enough support of its ideas.
“Senior Israeli officials said that the main dispute was that the Americans and the Russians see the cease-fire in southern Syria and the safe zones as a practical and tactical means of stabilizing the situation and enable a focus on wiping out the Islamic State and lowering the flames of the civil war. Israel, however, believes that the agreement should be considered from a long-term, strategic perspective and should focus on what the extent of Iranian influence will be in Syria after the civil war ends.
The Israelis told their interlocutors that the agreement should provide a solution not regarding Iranian presence in the 20 kilometers from the Israeli border, but for the rest of Syria as well. A senior Israeli official said the Israelis told the Russians and the Americans that they had to demand from the Iranians that the Revolutionary Guards, Hezbollah and the Shi’ite militias in Syria must leave the country.”
Israel argued that if the Iranian influence remains, Syria will become a base of missiles that would threaten Israel and Jordan and that the Iranian presence in Syria would undermine stability of Sunni states.